A study involving overweight people in their 50s suggests that those who lose weight are more likely to have feelings of unhappiness than those who remain the same size.
The PLOS One study discovered that those who lost in excess of 5% of their body weight, although healthier, were at higher risk of reporting unhappiness.
Over-50s who are overweight are told to reduce their weight for health reasons, which means they are not doing it for their looks alone. However, even taking this into consideration, their weight loss did not improve their mood.
The research team stated that anyone who is trying to lose weight should look for support from their family, friends and health professionals, if they feel that they need it.
Around 1900 overweight and obese people over the age of 50 participated in the British study. Researchers monitored their blood lipid level, blood pressure and weight for a period of four years. They were asked to complete surveys which assessed their general mood. Questions included their levels of motivation, loneliness and sadness, as well as how sleep-deprived they were over the previous weeks.
The 278 who shed weight experienced a drop in lipid levels and blood pressure. However, around 50% stated that they were feeling low, compared with those who remained the same weight.
Researchers attribute this to the dieting challenges they faced, such as having to avoid social gatherings where food was involved and resisting tempting treats.
The leader of the research, Dr Sarah Jackson, said the team does not want to send out a message of discouragement to those trying to lose weight as it has excellent physical benefits. However, people should not expect all aspects of their lives to improve once they lose weight.
She said that advertising by diet brands may be giving people unrealistic expectation about losing weight as they often promise instantaneous life improvement which may not be the case for a large number of people.
According to the researchers, the moods of dieters may improve once their goal weight has been reached as their focus will be shifted to the maintenance of that weight.
They have asked that health professionals who recommend weight loss be aware of both the mental and the physical effects.
The eating disorder charity, Beat’s Susan Ringwood said there are people who believe that when they lose weight or change their size and shape, their lives will change. She said that many of the daily messages that are broadcast promote this, particularly at this time of year when the beach holiday is coming up and clothing becomes more revealing.
She added that this study indicates that although there are physical benefits to reaching a healthy weight, psychological health is also important.
Image Credit: Alan Cleaver