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Mental & Emotional Effects of Weight Loss

author image Anna-Sofie Hickson
Anna-Sofie Hickson is a freelance writer with six years of writing experience. She writes for "LIVESTRONG Quarterly" magazine and contributes to various military publications. She is a certified personal trainer and holds a degree in English and psychology from Franciscan University. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas.
Mental & Emotional Effects of Weight Loss
Losing weight can affect your mental health.

Losing weight may be beneficial to your overall physical well-being, but it can also have negative impact on your mental health. When you’re making an effort to lose weight, the side effects are usually positive; physically and mentally, you enjoy an overall sense of satisfaction and self-confidence. On the other hand, the rapid results of weight loss surgery may prevent you from preparing mentally for the physical changes and could cause adverse psychological effects.

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Depression is the most heavily studied psychological consequence of diet-induced weight loss, says G. Terence Wilson, director of The Rutgers Eating Disorders Clinic Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. In cases of those who lose around 25 percent of their body weight, individuals are likely to experience some intense negative psychological effects. He says studies show that symptoms of depression and decreased self-esteem are more commonly associated with people who are at a healthy weight, but attempting to lose weight. Psychologists agree that there’s a direct correlation between poor body image and depression. On the other hand, Wilson states that most obese patients who lose weight show an initial improvement in body image contentment and an overall enhancement in their satisfaction in interpersonal relationships.

Anxiety and Stress

Keeping the weight off can increase your levels of stress and anxiety, says Wilson. Psychologist Paul Susic says weight loss maintenance can be difficult for dieters who tend to be emotional eaters. Losing weight affects your hormone levels, which in turn can affect your psychological disposition. Rapid weight loss can cause an extreme hormonal imbalance that can lead to mood swings, difficulty concentrating, stress and anxiety. Susic states that sustaining your weight loss can be mentally and emotionally demanding because it requires that you not only change your behavior, but you also have to modify a lifetime of pleasurable mental associations with food. Wilson and Susic both agree that by attempting to maintain your weight through continual food deprivation can lead to a constant state of anxiety.

Eating Disorders

Struggling with the pressure to lose and maintain a certain goal weight comes at an extremely high psychological cost, says Wilson. His studies show that women are more likely to develop eating disorders because of diet and weight loss. Wilson says that women who diet are more vulnerable to the development of anorexia nervosa, binge eating and bulimia nervosa. He affirms that there’s a direct correlation between dieters and patients with bulimia. Due to the physical and mental consequences of food obsession and restriction, dieters are more likely to develop eating disorders. Wilson says that, “at the cognitive level, unrealistically rigid standards of dietary restraint, coupled with a sense of deprivation, leave the dieter vulnerable to loss of control after perceived or actual transgression of the diet.”

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