In a world of fad diets and viral success stories, it's natural to feel like losing weight can transform your life. It also makes a lot of sense—our culture glorifies weight loss as "the" thing that will turn everything around. As a result, it's common that people believe a shrinking waistline will reveal a shiny new version of yourself, the "you" you always knew you could be.
There's just one catch, though: It won't.
That's not to say weight loss is pointless. When done in a healthy manner, it can reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea. It can boost your energy levels and help you achieve optimal physical health, too. Losing weight also encourages you practice positive behaviors, like eating more veggies.
However, beyond physical wellness, weight loss isn't a magic potion. And according to Jessica Dogert, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Chicago, Illinois, there's quite a bit that weight loss can't change.
"We often think weight loss will make all our problems and insecurities disappear, or [that it] will make us happier, help us land that perfect job or give us more likes on Instagram," she says. "[But] from personal experience and in working with clients, I can tell you [that this is] far from the truth. Taking up less space in this world is the very last thing we are put on this earth to do."
Basically, the best version of yourself—and your life—isn't measured by the scale.
Consider these 13 things that won't change when you lose weight. By keeping these factors in mind, you can focus less on the pounds and more on your life and how it improves when you take care of your body for the right reasons.
1. Your Daily Habits
Weight loss may involve new habits, but a magic number won't make the good ones stick. No, that crucial part is all on you.
Think about the things you do on autopilot. Do you start each day by getting lost on Facebook? Or do you drink some water and stretch it out? All of your daily habits matter, and regardless of how many pounds you lose, nurturing specific behaviors calls for continuous, everyday effort.
2. Your Ability to Eat Mindfully
While there's a good chance you practiced some degree of portion control in your pursuit of weight loss, it's only the beginning. Learning how to eat mindfully takes time. This includes eating only when you're hungry, stopping when you're full and handling cravings in a healthy way.
Besides, truly intuitive eating isn't fueled by weight loss; it's driven by the desire to feel good and fuel your body.
3. Your Relationship with Food
Losing weight won't transform your relationship with food.
Keep in mind that the word "relationship" refers to the connection you have with something. Therefore, the way you define, think and talk about food will come from a place of mental and emotional shifts—not physical change.
4. Your Dedication to Exercise
Like mindful eating, staying active isn't a byproduct of number. It stems from the desire to nurture your body and mind.
Think of it this way: During a weight-loss journey, exercise is used as a strategy. But what happens after the game plan is said and done?
A real commitment to exercise doesn't develop after a single moment. If you want to make exercise less of a tactic and more of a habit, you'll have to continuously put in the effort. If you didn't do it in the process of losing weight, take the time to seek out an exercise routine, class or studio that is a great fit for your personality. After all, it's a lot easier to make exercise a habit if you're not dreading every single session.
5. Your Happiness
Happiness isn't measured by pounds or calories. That's not to say weight loss can't spark joy. It can allow you to do physical activities that you couldn't do before, like playing tag with your grandkids. But despite the perks, it's crucial to recognize that happiness doesn't come disguised as a new pair of jeans. True happiness takes self-care and self-love, and if you carry over negative feelings about yourself or a self-critical mindset, those issues will still be there on the other side of the scale changing. Focus on learning about what makes you happy and eliminating toxicity in your life in addition to improving your health and you'll find real happiness and health in the end.
6. Your Family and Friends
When you lose weight, the people that truly support you will still be there in your corner. On the flip side, dropping the pounds won't mend your familial problems or relationships. These aspects come from a place of love, forgiveness and acceptance. Moreover, none of these things can be acquired through physical change.
Similarly, your most authentic friendships won't waver after weight loss. If a friendship does change, it's unlikely that your new waistline is the true problem. Consider if your dynamic was truly healthy to begin with, and take note of what makes your positive relationships flourish.
7. Your Love Life
When you lose weight, your perfect partner won't magically come along. This isn't a rom-com and you shouldn't expect that your weight was holding you back from finding a meaningful relationship.
Sure, you might get more attention, and you may even find yourself in new and different social situations. Yet, a truly happy relationship has nothing to do with looks and everything to do with compatibility and connection. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and anyone you're with should love you just the way you are, with or without the weight.
If you're currently in a relationship, any existing issues won't fizzle out after weight loss. The problems between two people involve emotions, communication and other factors that simply can't be determined by a number.
8. Your Self-Discipline
From portion control to regular exercise, willpower is a necessary tool for healthy weight loss. Yet, that doesn't mean your personal self-discipline struggles will swiftly disappear when you lose weight. You'll still have to face the things that tempt and entice you, whatever they may be.
Practicing self-discipline is its own separate journey. And while the road may overlap with weight loss, the destinations are worlds apart.
9. Your Self-Respect and Self-Worth
Weight loss won't make you more important. That's because you're already important, regardless of how many pounds you have (or haven't) lost. A "new" body doesn't change who you see in the mirror—you're still you. If you don't make a conscious decision to be kind to that person and stand up for that person, what different will weight loss make?
10. Your Self-Esteem
While losing weight can give you a boost of confidence, it's not a trade for self-esteem. This is especially true if you diet and exercise for the sake of shedding unwanted pounds.
On the other hand, if you eat and move to feel good, you'll find that your self-esteem and health will thrive.
11. Your Past
Weight loss can't make your past disappear. Pain, grief and trauma are deeply rooted in mental and emotional health. While physical changes can set the tone for recovery, it certainly won't heal your past. Recognize that recovery comes from a place much deeper than physical wellbeing.
12. Your Talents
Our talents and abilities make us who we are. They're also worth celebrating, no matter what the scale says. As Dogert reminds us, "We need to stop glorifying weight loss like it's the most impressive thing a human can do." Whether you're a baton-twirling dynamite or make a mean gumbo, embrace your talents and share them with the world to spread joy.
13. Your Smile
As a reflection of your inner beauty, your smile will never change. The same can be said of your laugh, wit and sense of humor. These things are unique to you, and only you. Hold them dear.
While the experience of weight loss can certainly influence these factors, they won't change them. Furthermore, when you lose weight, you won't find the finish line for health and happiness waiting for you at the end because such a line doesn't exist.
"Weight loss won't satisfy you or make you any happier in this life unless you're in a joyful place right now," explains Dogert. "[But when] you show up every day in your life and be present, that's what health is."