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Weight Loss and Mood

In one sense, this topic is just a matter of common sense. If someone feels badly enough about their body shape and decides to lose weight, failure is going to darken the mood. The motivation to shed pounds comes from a basic feeling of dissatisfaction with the way things are. Adding yet another failure to the pile of failures is moving one step closer to depression. But if our dieting and exercise program pay off with an improvement in our looks, we feel good about ourselves. But never forget the complexity of the human mind. Emotions are connected with events and our feelings about them. So the actual number of pounds in body weight is unlikely to be the only thing worrying us. There can be a range of connected issues affecting our mood. It can be problems at work. Our sex life may be disappointing. Our wardrobe may need a transfusion of new and bigger clothes – an unwanted expense when family budgets are under pressure. Look at everything together shows just losing weight may not be enough on its own to lift our mood.

When you look at the research, the clinical studies have a consistent focus. They start by counting the number of pounds lost, sometimes on their own or to calculate Body Mass Index or a percentage of body weight lost. They monitor the pattern of loss over time. If dieters falter, how quickly do they regain the weight? What is the weight lost over 12 months and longer? The studies treat weight as a measurable factor. Similarly, they routinely take blood pressure, monitor the carbohydrate level in the blood, look for signs of diabetes and heart disease… It’s easier to design scientific experiments that deal only with measurable factors. These are objective studies. They are better. Except people are people. They have feelings. So, in addition to all these scientific measurings, it would be good to ask them how they feel about their weight loss experience. Yes, this will be opinion and, for whatever reason, people may be dishonest. But it would give us a better insight into whether holistic treatment is better, i.e. treating people as individuals, making them the center of attention rather than focussing on a diagnosed medical disorder or disease.

Well, a newly published piece of research out of Australia has reached an interesting conclusion. It compared two groups of overweight people over one year. One was given a low-carb, high fat-diet, the other a high-carb, low-fat diet. The usual measurements were taken but, on four dates through the year, they were all given detailed questionnaires to assess whether they were anxious, depressed, angry, and so on. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight – an average of thirty pounds – and, at first, both showed improvement in mood. But the low-carb group’s mood quickly returned to pre-diet levels, whereas the high-carb group remained happier. Ignoring the scientific explanations of why this might be – something reserved for future research – there’s a further factor. None of the participants used any supportive drugs like phentermine. This might have made a difference because, if the reason for the loss of mood was the difficulty is keeping to the diet, phentermine would have help overcome the problem.