Looking good is one of the biggest motivators for weight loss of all types. Seeing the results in the mirror or receiving compliments from other people gives many the willpower to keep going. Yet, many people find that weight loss is not the cure-all for insecurities.
Many of the insecurities we face manifest themselves in our own appearance. But, they are often so deeply rooted that even a significant physical transformation cannot relieve them entirely.
Here are three reasons losing weight can help, but will not cure your insecurities.
1. Adjusting to a new image is hard.
Losing a lot of weight does not necessarily change the way you see yourself in the mirror, and adjusting to the new image in the mirror is hard. You may look at your reflection and see a trimmer, toned body, but you may not feel like the person staring back at you.
According to Elayne Daniels, a psychologist who works with people on body-image issues, people who were previously overweight or felt they were overweight carry around their perception of that image with them, even after the extra pounds are gone.
The phenomenon of feeling like you are still fat, even when you are far from it, is referred to as “phantom fat.” While it is disheartening, it is common. The perception of phantom fat particularly affects those who were overweight for a long period of time, and then dropped the pounds at a rapid pace.
You may also experience phantom fat if you are anxious about gaining the weight back. Those who have struggled with yo-yo dieting are likely to be more worried about small fluctuations on the scale.
Along with weight loss, it is important to retrain your brain to look at yourself without placing such heavy importance on your looks. You need to understand being thin does not mean being perfect. It will go a long way to helping you reduce your insecurities, regardless of your BMI.
2. Losing weight changes your size, not your life.
There is a lot of talk about changing habits and lifestyles when it comes to losing weight. Many people say, “If I could just lost 30 pounds, then I could….” There is a perception that weight loss results in dramatic life changes that allows you to finally reach your full potential as a human being.
But, changing a habit like overeating does not change who you are. It might change specific aspects of your life, like what size clothes you wear. But, your physical weight will not make you more or less likely to achieve all your dreams.
That is because losing weight and changing your personality are two different goals, and they need to be treated as such.
Encourage yourself to set different goals for different areas of your life. Set goals for your mental health and happiness. Keep weight loss in your physical health goals, and avoid feeling the “need” to lose weight.
If you feel like you "need" to lose weight psychologically, consider switching this mindset to goals that are physical. Train yourself to accept mental goals like enjoying being healthy instead of looking a certain way.
This will set you up to lose weight and also make those important changes to your life that will help you live your dreams.
3. Finding happiness is not as easy as losing weight.
Happiness and weight loss are often referred to as a package deal. You have never seen a weight-loss success story featuring newly thin people looking grim. But, those are advertisements. They do not reflect reality.
Weight loss often puts you on what is known as the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill says you might be extra happy after losing weight. But, you will return to your previous happiness level after the excitement wears off.
In other words, you might be elated you have lost weight and spent all that plan devising a workable meal plan. But, that happiness is not a long-term event.
Real, long-term happiness means working toward new goals. It means not expecting a singular event to solve all your problems forever.
Learning to accept the elation you experience after losing weight does not last is important because returning to natural happiness levels is not a reason to let your previous physical goals slip. It also does not take away from your accomplishments in losing weight.
Losing weight is a great start to providing yourself with a physically healthy life, and it might limit certain insecurities for a while. But, if you are not prepared to face yourself and your continued challenges after weight loss, you might see those insecurities are not shed with the extra pounds.
To help support your weight loss and reduce negative feelings, learn how to keep your physical goals separate from your psychological ones. Accept that life is a work in progress, regardless of the number you see on the scale. Embrace that, and you will find it easier to embrace yourself.