Does losing weight help depression? My honest experiences

I have suffered with depression since quite a young age. I know as young as 11/12 I first felt suicidal and worthless and over the years this has never completely gone, I have gone through periods it has been better than others but it has always been there. I have since around that time, possibly in some aspects before, had very low self confidence and hated myself in general not just my physical appearance. I have had counselling which looked at the underlying issues behind a lot of this. I will try to be as open in this post as I can as I am not ashamed of my depression. If I had a physical condition like epilepsy for example there wouldn’t be a stigma about saying I have it so I do not believe there should be for depression. I am certainly not looking for sympathy or reassurance just to be open and honest and hopefully help others.

I think it is all too easy for people to say that children get their body image ideas from magazines and celebrities but I don’t think that is always the case, though do agree that it can be at times. I personally didn’t feel hideous because I was bigger than any pop star or to star, I felt hideous from a young age because I did not like what I saw in the mirror, I did not like how I looked compared to my friends. I didn’t just dislike my appearance I hated myself and everything about me really.
So, why am I doing this post now? Well, I have recently spoken to a few people who say they hope that losing weight will help their depression or confidence and although I have talked about it before I thought I would bring the subject up again. I have been struggling a lot with my depression lately and hope that by sharing it helps others and gives people an honest account of how my weight losses and gains have affected my mental health.
What is depression? Everyone’s view on what depression is varies greatly. My opinion is that depression is much more than a “bad day” or “bad week” where otherwise someone is completely fine. Depression is a long term, be it months or years, of sadness that does not disappear easily. A feeling that nothing makes you happy completely and despite having everything you want you would still be depressed. In my opinion depression does not discriminate, anyone can have depression whether they have lots of money or struggle to make ends meet, whether they work or not, and age, religion and gender are irrelevant.
My opinion is that how we feel on any one day can be looked at like a bucket, if we have depression there already is a huge chunk of sadness in there so there is less space to be happy, then add to that life events or situations that are stressful and we add a bit more sadness to the bucket and to feel happy takes a lot more because there is so much sadness in the bucket that is our head. When people tell someone with depression to “just think of the good things” they are of course well meaning and for some people it may help a little. In my opinion though with depression it’s like starting every day with your head already half full of sadness and that bit you can’t really control.
With weight loss I believe that helps top eliminate one of the “bits of sadness” that is there in the bucket as such but not them all. I had started my weight loss journey with the intention of gaining enough confidence in myself to feel I could cope as a single mum and get out of the abusive relationship I was in. I was never covered in bruises the abusive behaviour was all the kinds no one could see and I very much kept to myself. As such I knew myself I needed to leave and hadn’t really talked to many people about it, it was something I had to do for myself. I felt I needed my confidence to improve to do this, in my opinion at the time if I lost weight this would help. Now I am not so sure that was what was necessary and maybe it was more confidence building work I needed. I was under no illusion and knew I was overweight, after all my wedding dress had been a size 28/30. I didn’t join Slimming World to be a size 8, I didn’t join because I wanted to be skinny. I joined because I wanted to be normal, I wanted to feel normal and I wanted to feel like I fit in.
So, how did weight loss helped my depression and confidence? Well, at target I felt better about myself when I looked in the mirror, but I still had depression. I looked in the mirror and still didn’t feel confident, I could see I was thin. I could see the labels in clothes were usually an 8 with the odd size 6 thrown in there and that made me happy. However small clothes and a thinner body wasn’t all I saw in the mirror. I also saw my wobbly bits, I saw the parts of me that have been used to put me down and make me feel worthless over the years.
What I am trying to say is when people say that when I was thin I should have been happy with my body are they saying that when I was morbidly obese I should have hated my body? Everyone has whatever feelings they have about their body, it is more than just what we see on the outside. The reflection we see in the mirror is different to what other people see when they look at us. I will never be able to look in the mirror and be truly happy because I am looking through my eyes and seeing what is in my heart.
Depression for me involves much more than my appearance, it is the feeling of worthlessness and self hatred. By losing weight I took a little bit out of that metaphorical bucket however only a little bit. I have since struggled with my depression and gained some weight as I have been open about with you readers. I guess that putting weight on has just added another bit to my bucket. The bucket was never empty when I was thin though. Losing weight didn’t empty the bucket, I wish it had.
I am happy with the way some aspects of my life are now, I have an amazing boyfriend and the most amazing son anyone could ever wish for. I would give my life for them both but never would that take away the depression that is inbuilt in me. I have a job I love in my blog and genuinely feel much more happy in my life than I ever have done before. Yes I have put weight on and I desperately want to lose that however the depression I now know will be there regardless and I need to lose the weight knowing this and accepting it.
For me my weight loss journey has truly been a journey of discovery! Discovery that I have more strength than I ever thought I did. I have discovered that I not only had the strength in my to permanently get out of an abusive relationship but also to address that and other issues from my past through counselling, to admit to myself what I have been through and work forward to ensure I never settle for a life like that again. I have discovered that clothes size is not as important as it can seem in how happy you are with your body. I still feel ugly and I still feel fat, I have learnt to accept this may never disappear and this is part of who I am. When I initially joined Slimming World as I say I wanted to feel normal, I wanted to be average, as I’ve said before this is why I called my blog Just Average Jen. I still don’t really feel average. I feel a little more confident, I feel a bit happier and in some respects I know I have a happier life but I still suffer with depression I always will.
So to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this blog post, will weight loss improve depression and confidence? In my opinion the answer is yes a little but you do not change as a person so those feelings and insecurities will continue regardless of your weight. I am the same person inside whether a size 30 a size 16 a size 10 or a size 6. Whatever size I have been there has only been a little change in my confidence and depression. I try to feel better about myself and recognise I am a good mum and a good friend but still feel worthless and feel like I am not good enough. So what I am trying to say is you are who you are, weight loss can improve it a little but ultimately you are you and the reality is you can’t change that you need to learn to accept you are the person you are whether you like it or not.
I am a lot better a person now than I have ever been, not because of my weight losses and gains but because of the way I have worked on myself and the focus I have placed on changing my mind-set and being as happy as I can be. I have made a conscious decision to wake up and feel as positive as I can every day and accept that I will never completely lose the depression. I am a happier person than I ever have been and my weight has nothing to do with that, though I do know if I can lose some of the weight I have gained I will feel better about my body too.
If you are reading this and thinking about starting a weight loss journey please don’t let this post put you off, I am not saying that I felt no better for losing weight because I did I felt a lot better in many way and the change it made to my life is immeasurable. However don’t make the mistake I did by thinking that it would cure my depression and make me so much more happy with myself overnight. Seek any help you need from those close to you and professionals. Work on the underlying issues that affect you and expect that things take time and some aspects of your personality are never going to change they are just who you are.
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1 Comment

  1. Susan B
    April 2, 2018 / 2:20 pm

    Thank you for a well written and candid post.

    Despite the joy in buying size 8 clothes, it’s not the losing weight that makes us happy: it’s the knowledge that we succeeded and that we have the strength to do so again in other situations.

    Wishing you continued healing and happiness.

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