Physical and Emotional Changes After Weight Loss

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2023

Starting a weight loss journey can lead to a profound transformation, both physically and emotionally. For someone with obesity, shedding excess pounds can improve not only their health but also their mental well-being, self-image, and relationships.1-3

Significant weight loss is a different experience for everyone. Various factors come into play during this process.

Improved physical health

One of the main benefits of significant weight loss for someone with obesity is the improvement in physical health. For those with obesity, shedding excess weight reduces the risk of many health conditions, including:1

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Joint problems
  • Sleep apnea

With weight loss, physical activities become easier and more enjoyable. Stamina and mobility improve. And weight loss can lead to lower cholesterol levels and improved blood pressure, promoting heart health and a longer life.1

Changes in emotional and mental health

Weight loss affects not only physical health but also mental health. After shedding excess weight, many people experience an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. Meeting weight loss goals often makes them feel empowered, strong, and resilient.2,3

Also, regular exercise (if one is able) and a balanced diet lead the body to release endorphins. These are "feel-good" hormones that can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.2,3

Improved self-image and body confidence

Achieving significant weight loss can lead to a positive change in self-image. People who have worked hard to shed excess pounds often feel more comfortable in their own bodies and enjoy a newfound sense of body confidence.3

However, weight loss may also bring about challenges related to body image. Losing a lot of weight in a small amount of time can change your perception of yourself. In your head, you may still be the size you were before your weight loss. But the mirror may show someone different. You also may need to deal with excess skin or other physical changes.3

For help, seek support from a mental health expert or join a body-positive community. These can help you adjust to and accept your body during this transition. Any big change in a person’s life can be overwhelming. A weight loss journey is no different.3,4

Excess skin and body contouring

A common concern after significant weight loss is excess skin. This is especially true after bariatric surgery. As the body quickly loses weight, the skin may not have enough elasticity to bounce back. This can lead to loose or sagging skin.5

Excess skin can affect self-esteem. But remember that this is a testament to your achievement of weight loss. In some cases, people may opt for body contouring procedures to remove excess skin. Consult with a qualified plastic surgeon if you want to explore your options.5

Relationship changes

Significant weight loss can influence relationships in various ways, too. Some find that their improved self-esteem and confidence lead to healthier and more fulfilling relationships.6

In a 2021 study, those who had bariatric surgery reported an improvement in their relationships. This was a small study, so more research is needed. But there seems to be a promising link between significant weight loss and relationship improvement.6

Other people may have unexpected challenges with friends and family. Loved ones may struggle to adjust to the changes. A study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health found that married adults who get bariatric surgery are more than twice as likely to get divorced.7

It is crucial to communicate openly with your loved ones. Emphasize that weight loss is a personal journey to improve your health and well-being. Surround yourself with people who support you.

Set realistic goals and expectations

Throughout your weight loss journey, set realistic goals and manage expectations. Weight loss does not happen in a straight line. Plateaus and minor setbacks are normal.

Celebrate small victories – not just the number on the scale. Focus on things like increased energy levels or clothing size changes. This can help maintain motivation and perspective. Embrace a long-term mindset and focus on sustainable lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes. This all sets the stage for continued success.

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