I want to talk to you about weight loss and depression. The truth is I have suffered from depression since quite a young age.
When my weight issues started
As young as 11/12 I first felt suicidal and worthless. 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’ve always 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.
In this post, I will try to be as open as I can. 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. I do not believe this should be any different for depression.
I am certainly not looking for sympathy or reassurance just to be open and honest and hopefully help others.
Where does depression come from?
I think it is easy for people to say that children get their body image ideas from magazines and celebrities. In my opinion, this is not always the case, though do agree that it can be at times.
Personally, I didn’t feel hideous because I was bigger than any celebrity. I felt hideous from a young age because I did not like what I saw in the mirror.
How I looked compared to my friends made me upset. I didn’t just dislike my appearance I hated myself and everything about me really.
So, why am I doing this post now? I have recently spoken to a few people who say they hope that losing weight will help their depression.
Lately, I have been struggling a lot with my depression and hope that sharing it helps others. Giving people an honest account of how my weight losses and gains have affected my mental health.
What is depression?
Everyone’s view of depression 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. Depression doesn’t care whether they work, age, religion and gender are also irrelevant.
How does depression develop?
My opinion is that how we feel on any one day can be looked at like a bucket. With depression, there already is a huge chunk of sadness in there so there is less space to be happy.
Add to that life events or situations that are stressful and we add a bit more sadness to the bucket. To feel happy takes a lot more because there is so much sadness in the bucket that is our heads.
When people tell someone with depression to “just think of the good things” they are of course well meaning. 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. That is the bit that you can’t really control.
My weight and depression aims
With weight loss, I believe that helps to eliminate only one or two of the “bits of sadness” in the bucket. I started my weight loss journey with the intention of gaining enough confidence in myself. Aiming 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 I experienced no one could see and I very much kept to myself. As such, I knew I needed to leave. I hadn’t 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 in hindsight, I am not so sure that was what was necessary. 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.
When I joined Slimming World I didn’t aim to be a size 8. I didn’t join because I wanted to be skinny. The reason I joined was that I wanted to be normal and I wanted to feel like I fit in.
Did weight loss help my depression?
At target, I was a dress size 6-8. I felt better about myself when I looked in the mirror, but I still had depression.
On looking in the mirror I still didn’t feel confident, I could see I was thin. I could see the labels on the clothes were smaller and that made me happy.
However small clothes and a thinner body weren’t all I saw in the mirror. I also saw my wobbly bits. The first thing I saw were 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. This is because I am looking through my eyes and seeing what is in my heart.
Moving on from weight loss and still suffering from depression
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 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. With an amazing boyfriend and the most amazing son, anyone could ever wish for. I would give my life for them both. However, never would take away the depression that is inbuilt in me. Additionally, I have a job I love in my blog. I genuinely feel much happier in my life than I ever have before.
Unfortunately, I have put weight on. I desperately want to lose that however, the depression I now know will be there regardless. I need to lose weight knowing this and accepting it.
My feelings now towards my weight and depression
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 me to permanently get out of an abusive relationship. Also, I had the strength to address that and other issues from my past through counselling.
I have learnt to admit to myself what I have been through. Working 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 the image of your body. Whilst I have still felt ugly and I still felt fat, whatever size I have been. 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. At my thinnest, I still didn’t really feel average.
I felt a little more confident and a bit happier. In some respects I know I have a happier life but I still suffer from depression I always will.
Etsy for weight loss
If you are like me and like buying fun new items to motivate your weight loss, then here are my favourites. Etsy is great for items for the kitchen and weight loss goodies. I could spend hours browsing there.
There are so many great food diaries too so you can record your meal plans and track your weight loss to keep a record of the good and bad weeks. Click the photos to have a look for yourself.
My overall thoughts on weight loss and depression
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. 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. That said I still feel worthless and feel like I am not good enough.
What I am trying to say is you are who you are. Weight loss can improve it a little but ultimately you are you. 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.
My feelings about myself now
I am a lot better person now than I have ever been. This is not because of my weight losses and gains but because of the way I have worked on myself. The focus I have placed on changing my mindset has made a difference.
I have made a conscious decision to wake up and feel as positive as I can every day. Accept that I will never completely lose the depression.
I am a happier person than I ever have been. My weight has nothing to do with that. 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 don’t let this 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 ways and the change it made to my life is immeasurable.
Don’t make the mistake I did by thinking that it would cure my depression and make me happy with myself overnight. Seek any help you need from those close to you and professionals. Work on the underlying issues that affect you. Things take time and some aspects of your personality are never going to change they are just who you are.
Help for your weight loss
I have lots of Slimming World friendly recipes.
Read all about my weight loss and my story here.
I have a lot of weight loss guides and support if you want to exercise including if you have a condition like fibromyalgia.
Have a good look around and see how I can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Request my free resources to get you started too!
Wow, I can’t believe how much your story resonates with me. I started feeling depressed when I was 13. It’s took me 25 years to seek help from a counsellor. It’s made a huge difference, and I now have more awareness of how I feel and good coping mechanisms. I love your comparison to physical illness. There is still a lot of stigma and shame around depression, but blogs like yours are helping banish them.
I admire your honesty. Your journey is an inspiration to lots of people. Thank you.
Honest article. I like the analogy of the bucket. Keep on fighting Jen.
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.