When our kids were very little I remember thinking or feeling that whatever stage we were in was a difficult one. It went something like this.
I’ll be happy when…
- my baby takes a bottle.
- my baby is out of diapers.
- my baby sleeps through the night.
- my baby moves out. : )
As much as I loved them to pieces, suffice it to say I could have put a little more emphasis on what was wonderful in that moment and a little less to what I thought would be better some time in the future.
Maybe you’ve thought something like this.
I’ll be happy when…
- I find true love.
- I own a house.
- I make more money.
- I retire.
- I lose weight.
Have you noticed that when that thing finally happens something else slides in to create more cognitive dissonance? Arggh!
Weight loss clients often make their excess weight the thing that prevents them from feeling truly happy. It might show up as not speaking up, not applying for jobs, not buying new clothes, not dating, not even socializing.
Hedonic adaptation says that we have a set point for happiness. Whether really great or really terrible things happen to us, the impact isn’t as long lasting as we might think. We eventually return to our stable baseline. Even when you fully enjoy your new love interest or your fabulous home, there is no one thing that will make you happy or miserable forever. We mostly end up where we started.
And as much as you think weight loss is different and it will surely bring lasting happiness, it won’t. If you weren’t happy before, weight loss won’t make you happy forever. Your spouse will still tick you off. And the housework will still pile up!
What to do? Often times focusing on being happy and healthy gets the weight moving in the right direction.
I’ve written much about health. Here are a few ideas about happiness.
- Practice building things into your life, both big and small, that make you happy. Great coffee, hobbies or day trips give you something to look forward to and get excited about. What would be something totally fun for you to work toward?
Perhaps this seems a little obvious, but often stressed-out clients can’t tell me what they do for fun or pleasure. We are a culture perhaps too focused on achievement and not enough on balance.
- Practice gratitude and appreciation for what you do have, for what is. Daylily blooms last but one day. Notice and revel in that bloom’s big moment. Tiny miracles are everywhere.
- Practice random acts of kindness. Doing things for others contributes to positive mood and wellbeing.
- Deal with your past and present stressors. They might be holding you back, even if you think they’re not.
- Accept yourself as you are. You are enough. You’ve accomplished enough. You deserve happiness as you are. Self-judgment will never make you happy or better than you are.
Weight loss is a worthy goal. However, if your weight has been stable for many years, you have no weight-related health concerns, and you have a healthy lifestyle, attempting to lose weight might not be in your best interest.
Like happiness, the biology of our bodies likes to return to that baseline. Dieting is counter-productive.
If it sounds like I’m trying to talk you out of losing weight, I’m not. I just don’t see it as the be all/end all, and I don’t want you to either. Let’s focus on being healthy and happy. That’s what matters most.