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We Need to Stop Associating Weight Loss With Happiness

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The advertisements of weight loss diets and exercise programs to lose your belly jelly is sending a skewed message to those with chronic diseases. Granted, there can be benefits to losing weight, but the overall message is once you lose weight, you will be happier. Happier with yourself. Happier your energy level is higher. Happier you’ll be able to fit into your favorite pair of jeans. Happier you’ll be able to keep up with kids – the list goes on and on. The message being sent is when your weight decreases your happiness increases, but if your weight increases your happiness decreases because you can’t do what you used to be able to do, because you have more belly jelly than before, because you feel bad about yourself, because you cannot keep up with your kids… and on and on and on.

This is garbage!

Weight loss should not equal happiness in my eyes. Happiness should not be dependent on weight. Happiness should not have to increase when weight is decreasing and happiness should not have to decrease because weight is increasing.

This may seem like a peculiar idea to wrap your mind around, so let me explain.

Two years ago, I was an active runner. I had a seven-minute mile under my belt, and I could play basketball all afternoon. I liked the activities I could engage in. I liked the muscle tone and strength I had. I liked how I was able to participate in physical activities with others, and I enjoyed being able to participate because I was athletic. I had lean muscle and I was toned in my legs from running and in my shoulders and arms from basketball. My “bat wings” were toned, I didn’t have a “thigh gap” and I liked my body and the strength it encased when I was heavier. I was happy with an athletic body because I could do what made me happy, which was running five to seven miles a day, five to six days a week.

As for today, I have lost 25 to 30 pounds due to an underlying rare, genetic and chronic lung disease along with an underlying autoimmune disease. I am limited in my physical abilities as my lung function hinders which activities I can engage in. Bringing a basket of laundry up from downstairs makes me short of breath. Scraping ice off of my car in the winter causes an asthma flare, and I walk slower than the rest of the crowd at college. I may not have as much belly jelly as I did when I was heavier, but I am definitely not toned or in shape. I have a difficult time gaining muscle mass, and when it feels like I am breathing through a straw I am not really enthused by the idea of getting in a “light” workout. I do not weigh as much as I did two years ago, and I cannot participate in activities like I used to because it exacerbates breathing difficulties, coughing up blood and wheezing. See, weight loss companies would say I should be happy I lost the weight. But weight loss companies do not know I lost a part of myself when I was diagnosed with my lung disease. I lost the outlet of running because of my lung disease, poor lung function, lung scarring and lung calcifications.

I’m getting the message that I am supposed to be happy for my weight loss when my weight loss took away an outlet, a coping strategy and an activity I enjoyed. I’m also getting the message I should have been sad when I was heavier, even though I was happy with my weight and my ability to participate because I was healthy and active.

It is a gray area if you ask me. I think we need to stop placing our happiness on a number because it’s only causing me more confusion and frustration.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: January 19, 2017
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