Our society places a lot of value on looks, especially weight. Because of the constant pressure to remain or get skinny, many people think they would be happier at a different size.

Can we buy ourselves more happiness through losing weight? That’s an interesting question, especially when you consider that many weight loss programs have an underlying message that our lives would be better and happier if we lost weight.

A study released this month by the University Collage London focused on 1,979 overweight or obese participants. Those who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight were 53 percent more likely to be depressed than those who stayed at the same weight. This despite that their health improved with the weight loss.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Sarah Jackson, shared a few thoughts with Science Daily on why this could be the case.

Unrealistic expectations from advertising

"Aspirational advertising by diet brands may give people unrealistic expectations about weight loss. They often promise instant life improvements, which may not be borne out in reality for many people. People should be realistic about weight loss and be prepared for the challenges.”

Mental toll of dieting

"Resisting the ever-present temptations of unhealthy food in modern society takes a mental toll, as it requires considerable willpower and may involve missing out on some enjoyable activities," Jackson said. "Anyone who has ever been on a diet would understand how this could affect well-being. However, mood may improve once target weight is reached and the focus is on weight maintenance. Our data only covered a four year period so it would be interesting to see how mood changes once people settle into their lower weight.”

I can’t speak for the people in this specific study, but I have some blogging friends who have spoken out on both the realities of losing weight, and also how dieting can be done for all of the wrong reasons.

For example, a blogger who lost a substantial amount of weight now has to deal with a lot of loose skin. The tightly toned bikini girl she sees in a magazine “who lost 50 pounds” looks nothing like she does. Unrealistic or unfair expectations could lead to disappointment and even depression once you’ve done the hard work of thinning down.

Another friend of mine decided she needed to learn to love and accept herself as she looked — and then consider dieting. So often dieting is done out of self-hatred and disregard, which is much more likely to end up in unhealthy eating habits. Instead, this friend chose to work through her emotional hang-ups about her body while still dealing with unwanted weight. Then, out of a healthy place and because she cared and loved her body, she chose to make dietary decisions that would help make her strong and healthy, and slowly lose weight as well. The point she made was this: if we can’t accept ourselves now, why do we think we will accept ourselves later?

I think we need to get away from the concept that being a certain size will give us all of the things we want in life, and instead concentrate on being healthy so that we can do the things we want in life. If we take the focus off the external, and instead consider how best to build a healthy body (which includes a healthy weight), I think we can go a long way towards having healthier attitudes about our bodies, no matter what our size.

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Losing weight won't necessarily make you happy
Would you be happier if you were skinnier? One study says maybe not.