Diet

What no one tells you about losing a lot of weight

A look at the emotional and psychological effects of rapid and extreme weight loss shows the less-than glamorous side to reaching your goals.

Woman adjusting scale

Find out what it’s really like to see a huge change on the scale (Photo Masterfile).

A few years ago I interviewed a number of people who had managed to lose upwards of 100 pounds. The weight loss had come from dieting, discipline and exercise. No one had resorted to any medical or pharmaceutical interventions but rather had done it on their own. Many of the people I spoke to had been overweight since they were children, which made the journey even more emotional.

But while almost all of the people I spoke to expressed genuine elation in their success, I also learned that there are real drawbacks to losing a lot of weight. The most significant? Loose skin.

Sometimes when people drop a great deal of weight they’re left with heavy folds of skin. The reason for this is because the excess weight stretches the skin and impairs its ability to bounce back. And it’s not just a little flap of skin either. Some people are left with a dress size-worth of excess skin, which not only gives their body a look they weren’t going for, but also seriously detracts from their sense of accomplishment.

Loose skin — what to do with it, how to deal with it — is rarely discussed in our diet- and weight-loss fixated culture. But some are making the claim that it ought to be. In a recent article for The Cut, writer Alexandria Symonds discusses the problem at length and makes the argument that extreme weight loss is oversimplified and sanitized and that the culture presents a one-dimensional view of a complex problem that doesn’t serve anybody well.

She writes: “For at least some newly thin people, there’s a meta-dissatisfaction in feeling that significant weight loss has made life anything other than perfect: Any discomfort you may feel with your body is compounded by a sense of shame at not feeling unmitigated pride at a moment you expected to be triumphant.”

Symonds makes the radical proposition that we lose our extreme weight loss fixation and instead cultivate a more reasonable approach to improving health. Rather than focus on how much weight you need to lose to wear a bikini, it might be more worthwhile to determine what amount of weight loss allows you to live a happier, healthier lifestyle that suits you.

Adopting a lifestyle that balances health with happiness may not make for the most sensational weight loss story, but it may just be the most authentic and valuable story we share with one another.

Have you lost a large amount of weight at some point in your life? Tell us how you felt afterwards in the comment section below.