I’m going to be totally straight with you: I didn’t hate losing 40 pounds.
Secretly (or not-so-secretly, dear internet), it is one of my proudest accomplishments. At times it felt euphoric. My energy levels skyrocketed, my memory is sharper, clothes fit me better, and I sleep more soundly. Working out these days is, comparatively, a breeze. After all, I have since lost the weight of a small kindergartener. My back feels so much better — and there’s far less huffing.
My weight loss “journey” (as the Instagrammers like to call it) was a huge achievement in self-denial. As a stressed-out mother of two under 2 who just wanted her lasagna already, this was an attribute I didn’t think I could flex any longer when it came to food decisions.
Many months after giving birth, I began to realize that my body wasn’t exactly postpartum so much as it was actually overweight. The scale hadn’t budged for months, and despite losing a few initial pounds with the baby, I was 40 pounds heavier than what was listed on my driver’s license — my BMI was decidedly in the red.
Though the few clothing items that fit made me feel like a lumpy sack of potatoes, I stubbornly refused to succumb to the fact that maybe this was just my body now — and thus stuck to rotating through the same four or five stretchy maxi dresses. As those began to look worn and shabby, however — and my baby was no longer “newborn,” and my toddler was running laps around him — it was time to make a decision. It was time to either lose weight or buy new clothes.
And I did the crazy thing: I went with the weight.
Never mind how I did it (okay, it was intermittent fasting and keto) — that is not the point of this article. The point is that my goal weight — the incredible feeling of sliding into that elusive pant size — didn’t actually make me happier.
Zeroing in on that “ideal” weight — and then hitting that magical number — was, in so many ways, anticlimactic. Sure, the euphoria might have lasted longer than eating a candy bar (“nothing tastes as good as skinny feels!”), but that number had promised so much more than a candy bar! I knew skinny jeans looked better on me, but where was my easy confidence? Where was my satisfaction? Where was my peace of mind? Why did I somehow feel like an empty sack, mystified that happiness didn’t rush in to replace the potatoes I’d shed?
Talk to any psychologist, and they’ll tell you that depression or disillusionment after weight loss isn’t exactly a rare occurrence. After all, with media touting all those easy “tricks” and “hacks” to get skinny and fit, deep down we know that weight loss isn’t really going to make us happy — yet we still somehow feel let down. With nearly 70 percent of Americans overweight (or obese), it’s no wonder the $66 billion weight loss industry wants to taunt us — likening skinniness with godliness, or at least goodness and self-worth. It’s easy money!
So not only are we conditioned to expect fulfillment if we somehow achieve a certain number, actually losing the weight is hard work — processed sugar and carbs are abundant, cheap, addictive, and even emotional. And after hard work, don’t we deserve happiness? Isn’t that what’s expected when we feverishly focus on a goal? After all, it’s what’s promised.
Maybe I didn’t get depressed exactly — but I did feel anxious at the realization I was only a slightly more energized version of being exactly the same. I was still me — so, so, so me. With all my weaknesses, foibles, and fallings. And this might have been a tough thing to accept and acknowledge, but it was also a launching pad to discover that I had the key to feeling happy all along.
In my focus to lose weight during those few months, I had neglected my interior life to focus on making my exterior look as awesome as I could. This realization — the fact that I truly fell for it — was both humbling, and also strangely empowering. Oddly, losing this weight to discover that it didn’t make me happy was one of my best discoveries. With weight loss no longer a distraction, the key to my happiness was more apparent than ever.
This discovery began with self-acceptance. I finally realized that despite all the appearances, I never quite accepted myself. This epiphany pushed me to uncover the sad fact that the narrative I’d been telling myself was that I had to earn love — and that I would only receive it once I checked all the boxes in my mind that made me worthy of it (which by the way, is impossible).
Instead, I had to replace it with one idea: I was who I was, and that was enough.
This very simple shift in my self-narrative was the spark that allowed me to begin surrendering to a bigger and even greater love. It made me realize that this elusive “happiness” isn’t what we’re searching for as much as “meaning” — and that this meaning isn’t achieved through goals, but an ongoing experience with the divine. It’s about listening, receiving, and taking action day by day.
In essence, it’s a relationship. A real, vulnerable relationship. And the faster we can accept that, the faster we can accept ourselves and whatever path that we’re meant to be on.
All that said, I’m a work in progress. And in so many ways, being at this healthier weight is indeed a powerful asset that makes it easier to balance the chaos that is life (hello, better sleep). But it’s only that: an asset. An asset that we should all work toward, but not half as hard as working at cultivating a rich spirituality — a purpose that transcends even careers, destination vacations, and those lean beach bodies.
After all, joy isn’t a destination — be it weight or status. It’s a cultivated habit, and far more rewarding than any beach.