Losing weight and getting healthier should be a good thing…right? Well, as Rosie O’Donnell told ABC News, shedding a lot of pounds may not instantly change your life for the better.
O’Donnell recently returned to hosting The View after leaving the talk show in 2007. She suffered a heart attack in 2012 and since then, she had a procedure known as a vertical gastric sleeve and dropped 50 pounds. Unlike a gastric bypass, which re-routes how your stomach processes food, a vertical sleeve gastrectomy removes a large portion of the stomach, leaving it about the size of a banana, according to the National Institutes of Health.
It’s hard to imagine seeing any downsides to slimming down, especially since people who are overweight are more prone to serious health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Still, O’Donnell says it took some adjusting to get used to her new body.
“Everyone assumes that obese people would just be jumping for joy that they were healthier and thinner,” O’Donnell told ABC News. “But it’s also filled with a lot of emotional turbulence you wouldn’t expect.”
In fact, a UK study published in the journal PLOS One found that losing weight may not alter your mood the way you might expect. Of the 1,979 overweight and obese participants, 14% lost at least 5% of their initial body weight. After controlling for factors like serious health issues and major life events, researchers found more than half of the people who lost weight were more likely to report being depressed.
That may be because weight loss doesn’t address any underlying problems you may have. “Sometimes other things are making you unhappy, and the expectation that weight loss will fix it doesn’t pan out, which makes you even more unhappy,” says Gail Saltz, MD, Health‘s contributing psychology editor.
Here are some surprising things people might not think about when it comes to losing weight:
You may not be prepared for increased attention
Not many people may have gone out of their way to talk to you when you were overweight, and the attention that may come with your new look could be shocking at first. “Some people keep weight on unconsciously to protect themselves from intimacy with others,” Dr. Saltz says. This is especially true in settings of sexual intimacy. The fear of being hit on or being sexual with others may terrify some so much it causes them to regain the weight, Dr. Saltz says.
Your partner may not be supportive
O’Donnell says her partner encouraged her to be healthy, but that may not be the case for everyone. “A lot of marriages break up once one person gets healthy,” she told ABC News. Your partner might feel threatened by your weight loss for a number of reasons. A big one is they’ll fear others will want you or you’ll look better than them, Dr. Saltz says. Your shaping up forces your significant other to think about their own health choices, which they may not be prepared to handle. Another problem: Your partner may worry about how your personality might change. “You feeling great, sexy, or confident could shift the balance of the relationship,” Dr. Saltz says. “They fear losing the identity of the more confident one or losing the upper hand.” Many of these challenges could apply to friendships, too.
Your clothing options may feel scary
It’s not uncommon to feel unsure about shopping outside of plus size stores or sections. “It may be unexpected to feel nervous and conflicted about styles you might not have worn before because they are body revealing,” Dr. Saltz says. After losing weight, you may not know how to react to clothes that fit your body in new ways—not to mention the hefty price tag that comes along with buying a new wardrobe.
Your body might not match your expectations
Being thinner doesn’t mean your body will look “perfect” to you now. Loose skin, a flat behind, and sagging breasts are all changes that might accompany weight-loss procedures or lifestyle changes that help you shed a lot of pounds. Those changes won’t go away overnight either. And when your reflection doesn’t match what you imagined, you may feel more disappointed that there’s no healthy lifestyle change to fix the problem right away, Dr. Saltz says.
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