Why weight loss doesn't equal happiness

Happy Humpday everyone. 

Today I have a guest post from my friend and co-worker Josh Williams. Josh is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan despite having grown up in Bar Harbor, Maine, so believe everything he says :)

There is this thought that weight loss automatically results in increased happiness and self-confidence. Well, sorry to be the rainy cloud on your sunny day, but this is not always the case.

Gather around kids and let Papa Josh tell you a story about his journey of weight loss, self-confidence, and happiness.

The Beginning: 3 Ingredients for Weight Gain  

I was a healthy, active child growing up. I had a big imagination and loved to play outside…well, at least that’s what I recollect.  I had two wonderful parents who were loving and did normal parent stuff like feed me, clothe me, discipline me as needed. You know, the basics.

This happy go lucky lifestyle lasted up until the age of 6. That’s when my father lost his battle with cancer.

Ingredient 1: Stressor

When you lose a loved one it can be hard to know how to cope with that situation as an adult, let alone as a young child. I developed some bad coping mechanisms during this time.

TV and video games became my escape and food was my friend that was always there to listen and never judge. When I was stressed or feeling down, my go to was binge eating and videos games.

Ingredient 2: Cocktail of Sedation and Sugar  

As I became accustomed to doing nothing all day it became hard to do something active during these times.

It was not uncommon for me to wake up on a Saturday and play video games from 7 in the morning to something stupid like 11 or 12 at night. It also was not uncommon for me to eat a 2-pound bag of Swedish Fish in one sitting while watching Sponge Bob.

As you can imagine, this is a great diet plan for gaining weight. From the age of 7 to the age of 10 I went from something like 75lbs to 175 lbs. That is 33 pounds a year, or about ¾ of a pound a week. So needless to say I was crushing it and when I started football in 5th grade all the coaches wanted me. Life goals right there.  


Ingredient 3: Decreased Self Esteem  

The final ingredient to crushing your weight gain goals is an unhealthy dose of decreased self-esteem. This ingredient really keeps the whole cycle going.

Over the years I started feeling gross in my own skin. I felt fat and I felt ugly. I turned to the Chris Farley approach to dealing with this, which if you don’t know, is self-humiliation humor.  

I also tried a lot of ways to feel better in my clothes:

Baggy Hawaiian shirts

Static defense spray so clothes don’t stick to skin

Under Armour compression shirts. I wore one of these under my shirts until I was a senior in high school.

Surprisingly all of these did not make me feel any better.


What I Thought to Be the Solution

I finally turned to working out when I was in 8th grade at which time I weighed between 240 and 260 pounds. I thought if I could lose the weight I would be happy and I would gain self-confidence equal to the amount of weight I would lose.

From 8th grade to senior year I went from 260 pounds to 215 pounds. by  the beginning of my sophomore year in college I weighed in at 198 lbs and had 9% body fat.



If my idea that weight loss equals self-confidence was true, based off these photos you would think I was the most self-confident person in the world. Nope. I thought I was fat in those photos. I bet I will never be that lean or that in shape again. It is sad that I was not able to enjoy my success at this point in my life.

Weight loss did not fix the problem. Turns out, the problem was not a physical one, it was a mental one.

Happiness is found in your self-worth. I am not saying working out did not end up helping me increase my self-esteem, I am saying it was not the end all be all solution to my deeper problem.

That is why it bothers me so much when I hear people say, “I’ll be happy when I lose just 5 more pounds.”

Really!? That’s all it will take? What happens at this 5-pound mark? Does a leprechaun jump out and say “Hop on my back and we will ride across this mythical land of rainbows and four legged ponies”? And there you will be incarnated into your dream body where a six-pack will emerge and you will have not extra skin or imperfections?

The truth is you will never be happy with that mindset. If you are not able to see how far you have come and appreciate where you are at, when you hit your goal, you will still see yourself as I did: still not good enough.

You need to recognize where you are now and have a clear point B. Point B is not dream body, Point B is healthy and you should be happy with healthy.

What is healthy?

Healthy is the ability to do what you want without physical restrictions. This is my definition, not Webster’s.

Once you have a healthy body fat percentage, waist to height ratio, and your health markers are all in line, you should be happy with yourself at that place. This new found self-confidence will not happen overnight, but if everyone around you is saying how great you are looking then, chances are, you look really good. Now it comes down to seeing yourself as who you are now not who you were 5 years ago or who you think you should be.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to drop a few more pounds, but you first have to realize that healthy is great and it is better than just ok to be at that point. Once you accept where you’re at, then seek the more vain goals.

This will allow you to have a better mindset. If you don’t hit that lofty goal, your entire self-esteem won’t go down the drain because you are already confident in who you are.

Remember the problem is often not a physical one, but a mental one.

PS: I just want to add that this mental change will not happen overnight, just like weight loss it can be slow and gradual but over time, with positive reinforcement, you will be able to see how far you have come and to appreciate where you are at.

Josh is the Director of Training and Education at Spurling Fitness and maintains his own blog at www.williamstrainingsystems.com. He recently released his first e-product, the At Home Workout Builder which is an excellent resource for working out at home.