For the average person who is obese or even merely overweight, losing the excess pounds and getting back to their old high school weight is the Holy Grail. These people would beg, borrow or steal if someone could just wave a magic wand and make all the surplus weight just disappear and let them get back to a “normal” life.
But there are some downsides to losing weight, and the time to consider them is before you have spent 12 months on a semi-starvation diet to get to what is often an arbitrary and meaningless target.
First of all, the only target for someone on a diet should be the ideal weight for their body type. It makes little sense for the average man or woman to aim for the appearance of a super-model, an Olympic athlete or a movie star.
That is one reason why I always get a bit concerned when someone starts quoting some magic figure to me that they have to get down to. The goal of weight loss is NOT to get thin! There are too many studies now that show that thin people suffer just as many health problems as their over-weight friends. As in everything, moderation is the key.
So what are some of the problems that you may experience from losing weight?
Toxins being released into your blood stream
Something that is not often discussed is that long-term weight loss can release pollutants linked to diabetes, hypertension and rheumatoid arthritis into your blood stream.
These unpleasant substances have probably been stored in your fatty tissues for years. They are broken down as you lose weight and find their way into your blood. That is obviously not a good outcome because once they have been released into the bloodstream, these pollutants are able to reach your vital organs.
The weight loss may not be sustainable or achieve the health improvements you expected.
There was an article a few years ago by John Bosomworth from the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, published in the same issue of CFP. In that article the following points (among others) were raised:
- Sustained weight loss is achieved by a small percentage of those intending to lose weight.
- Mortality is lowest in the high-normal and overweight range.
- The safest body-size trajectory is stable weight with optimization of physical and metabolic fitness.
- The main people who achieved lower mortality from weight loss were those with obesity-related comorbidities.
- Healthy obese people wishing to lose weight should be informed that there might be associated risks.
You may experience a Mourning Period for your old lifestyle
Being on a diet, particularly one that is working is a fantastic feeling. With each passing week you are hitting new target weights (Ratchet Weights), your clothes are not as tight as they used to be, and there is a spring in your step. It’s an exciting time and you can be on emotional high.
But once you hit your target weight zone it gets a bit harder. Studies have shown that people who have lost significant weight have a lower base metabolism than someone who weights the same weight but was never overweight. So the diet doesn’t end because you have achieved your ideal body shape and weight.
You will never be able to return to the lifestyle and eating habits that made you fat in the first place. Apart from special occasions like family parties or important social events, you will not be hanging around the bar drinking beers and eating salty pub snacks.
The gourmet dinners with rich, sweet deserts and lakes of wine to wash it all down will be a thing of the past. No more curling up on the couch with crackers while watching TV.
In short, the days of just eating whatever you want are gone for good, unless you want to stack all the weight back on. To make things worse, many people report that having reached their ideal weight, they live with constant feelings of hunger.
I don’t say all this stuff to de-motivate people. What I am concerned about is the amount of dietary advice that I see in books and online, that glosses over these items. It’s like the dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about.
You may experience social isolation
It can become difficult to hang out with your old friends eating out regularly and drink until all hours like the good old days. Parties and Restaurants can become hard work when you are on a strict eating regime, and also probably watching the alcohol intake. You may end up having to seek out a whole new lifestyle and a new set of friends.
You may find yourself on the receiving end of resentment from co-workers
Trying to eat a healthy diet at work can be a challenge. Some people will try to sabotage your new eating habits either through ignorance or malice. Some people who have weight challenges of their own may feel threatened or jealous of your success. You might find yourself being called boring or anti-social when you pass on offers of lunches or after hours drinking session. You will also find yourself saying no to the generous plates of food that the office gourmet brings in to share around. In a multi-cultural environment you may even unwittingly offend some people when you refuse an offer of food from them.
You may fall victim to Body Perfectionism
When you are overweight that is the primary problem. It hardly seems worth spending good money on clothing and grooming, when you are still going to be fat. As Stephen King so eloquently put it in his novel, Christine, it’s a bit like trying to “polish a turd”.
But having lost the weight and achieved the ideal weight, you notice the other blemishes with your appearance that were not so important when you were just fat. Some people actually find that their self-esteem drops lower after losing the weight than it was back when they were an easy going bon vivant with a large body and an even larger appetite.
You might suffer from sagging skin
It is possible that after massive weight loss you could have folds of extra skin left over from before the weight loss. The skin can end up hanging limply like worn out elastic. And this problem is not just cosmetic, The extra skin can cause infections, rashes and back problems. In the USA plastic surgery can easily run up a bill $100,000 or more. The surgery is far from a perfect solution. The patient will have lifelong scars from the surgeries.
Your marriage or relationship may be put at risk during or after a successful weight loss program.
Your partner might making negative statements about your dieting. They may be threatened by your new found slim appearance and worry about losing you. They may even have been happy with you the way you were and wonder what is behind your newfound weight loss and more attractive appearance.
Your partner may try to make you feel guilty about the success you’ve had with weight loss? You will be changing your lifestyle. Maybe attending the gym, or going on long runs can make your partner start to resent that you are not around as much as you used to be.
Another problem can be sabotaging behaviour. This can be anything from your partner cooking your favourite food or maybe they try to tempt you into skipping your daily run or gym appointment.
You might suddenly find bowls of tempting biscuits laying about the house or delicious looking cream cakes have been purchased because your partner “forgot you were on a diet”.
3. Reformed Smoker Syndrome:
Some people who have lost the pounds start to looking and feeling like a new person. esteem soars and can quickly turn into arrogance. They are then at risk of actually start to look down on their partner, and snipe at his or her failings.
This is like the reformed smoker syndrome, where a reformed smoker becomes a pain in the rear end, always lecturing and criticising anyone else who has not had their success in quitting smoking. The reformed over-eater is much the same.
You may find yourself asking why your partner has not achieved the same things as you have. You may look at your partner shovelling food down their gullet and start to become more aware of their weight and other short-comings. You may find yourself lecturing them on some of the finer points of healthy nutrition and dieting and be annoyed at their lack of interest.
Studies have shown that the divorce rates after weight-loss surgery are extremely high.
Morbidly obese people have often come to feel helpless and accepting of situations that others would not. After successfully losing the weight, they are now feeling slim, trim and terrific and are empowered to get themselves out of situations such as marriage that they might have tolerated before.
Interestingly, the studies have found that if the person who lost the weight was of normal weight when the marriage began then that relationship has a good chance of surviving the post weight loss challenges.
But if the relationship began with the partner already obese, there is a very high (in the range of 80% to 85%) chance that that relationship will break up. Maybe the obese partner struggled during courting and took whatever was going at the time. While the concept of “faking an orgasm” is a well known phenomena, the people who fall into this group may have been faking an entire relationship!
Increased levels of promiscuity can become a huge problem for someone who has lost large amounts of weight and is now healthy, slim and attractive to the opposite sex. The person who has spent most of their life overweight may never have thought of themselves as a sexual being. With their new found confidence and soaring self-esteem they now want to “spread their wings” or to use the English vernacular “put it about!”
What are the solutions?
There are no pat solutions for the complex issues raised in this post. One would hope that most people losing large amounts of weight will be doing so under the care of a qualified doctor, so the first port of call for help would be that medial professional.
Some of the social issues raised above may require professional counselling or even psychiatric treatment.