Life after massive weight loss: It's not always perfect

Beth Greenfield

Like Yahoo NZ Lifestyle on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

Rachel Frederickson before, left, and after. Photo: Getty Images

And while Frederickson does admit she may have been “a little too enthusiastic” with her workouts, she maintains that she’s both “confident” and “very, very healthy.” But is she happy?It’s too soon to tell—and no one outside of Frederickson’s close personal circle may ever really know for sure. Still, the harsh public reactions she’s faced so far have served to shine a spotlight on what can often be unexpected results of extreme weight loss, including the jarring realization that dropping weight may not always be the panacea you’ve been longing for.

“When it comes to obesity, we often look at the disease as a cosmetic thing,” James Zerrios, spokesperson for the Obesity Action Coalition, tells Yahoo Shine. “But there’s often a psychological aspect that’s underlying somewhere, and just because somebody’s lost the weight doesn’t mean the underlying issues are gone.”

Sometimes, he explains, relationships can begin to fray—especially if one person in a couple has lost a lot of weight while the other has not, leading to resentment or jealousy or even a sense of loss. “ ‘The Biggest Loser’ did cause my wife some apprehensions,” season 8 winner Danny Cahill tells Yahoo Shine. “She was afraid I would possibly leave her.” Luckily, he adds, he anticipated her worry and set her at ease right away, asking her to renew their vows on camera after the show wrapped up.

Other newly thin people, Zerrios notes, will start to notice how the world reacts differently to them, which can be upsetting rather than exciting. “A lot of times women will say, ‘I can’t believe men hold the door open for me now,’” he says. “And then they’ll say, ‘What was wrong with me before? Was I not human?’”

That’ closely describes some of the hurt feelings of New York writer and vegan activist Jasmin Singer, who wrote about how losing 100 pound changed her life in a January essay for MindBodyGreen. “Don’t get me wrong. Losing the weight that had plagued both my knees and my spirit for so long was an important accomplishment for me, something I’d been desperately longing for since I was a kid,” she writes, explaining the changes of going from 221 pounds (with a litany medical problems) to a fit and healthy marathoner who even appeared on the Dr. Oz Show to talk about her transformation. Still, the changed reactions of those around her - men enthusiastically holding open doors, women giving unsolicited compliments about an item of clothing she was wearing—left her both “gobsmacked” and “furious.”

“As a fat person, I had recognised that I was a victim of an unfair, unjust society,” she writes. And thought she’s grown to like the warmth, “savor” it, even, she adds, the lesson has been a tough one. “I still am and always will be a fat girl, with a fat girl’s awareness that the world is not nearly as nice as it sometimes seems right now.”

Jen Larsen touched on similar issues in her 2013 memoir, “Stranger Here,” in which she delves into how her life was changed—mostly for the better—after weight-loss surgery helped her go from 308 to 168 pounds. But when self-acceptance didn’t come automatically, it sent her into emotional turmoil, and feeling like she’d lost her sense of identity, especially after she’d spent years believing that “thin” and “happy” were always entwined. "I realized I was depressed," she tells the San Francisco Chronicle about her post-surgery epiphany, "and even though I was way thinner, I was in no way happier."

Jasmin Singer before, left, and after. Photo: Courtesy of Jasmin Singer

Same with countless others who have lost lots of weight, including Harvard grad student John Janetzko, who tells New York Magazine that losing 120 pounds actually left him with a sense of disappointment. "I haven't spoken to a single person who lost a ton of weight and didn't have some issues with their eating habits or body image after it was done," he says. "And I'm pretty sure if you asked them at the beginning, they all thought that it would just be magic, and they would feel better automatically when they lost the weight."

Still, those who have shed their old bodies say that finding happiness is right within reach—but that might take a bit more time and work to find it than they’d initially believed. “I think the most challenging thing since losing the weight is finding balance in everyday life,” Olivia Ward, winner of “The Biggest Loser” season 11, tells Yahoo Shine. “Now that I have been in maintenance for a few years, I have found a healthy balance between exercise and life, but that took time and trial and error. I'm proud of where I am today, and so excited about the road ahead—and I can honestly say that most of my life I didn't feel that way.”

Related:
The diet-free way to feel sexier
Could labelling obesity a 'disease' be a bad thing?
The hottest fitness trends of 2014