Health & wellbeing

Can losing weight make you a happier person?

Published 4 February, 2019

“If I’m happy, I can lose weight.”

“If I lose weight, I’ll be happy.”

There’s scientific proof underpinning the first statement, and you can read the full article here.

But what about the second?

Browse through the success stories below to get a feel for how losing weight and building healthy habits can improve your mental wellbeing, from feeling happier to more confident.

For example, Penny was able to come off her antidepressants when she changed her eating habits, started running and discovered that exercising made her feel good.

Junaid is in a better place emotionally since joining WW, and Lucia went from feeling unhappy to more confident than ever. Read their stories below, then scroll down for the science.  

What does the science say?


The evidence isn’t just anecdotal – the science also suggests that losing weight can improve your happiness. For example, a 2009 study by the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour found that people with depression who lost weight saw an improvement in their symptoms of depression.1 

However, a more recent study at University College London found that the effects of weight loss on mental health are less straightforward. While losing weight resulted in significant physical benefits, participants who lost 5% or more of their initial body weight over a four-year period were 52% more likely to report a depressed mood than those who stayed within 5% of their original weight. 

While the study doesn’t prove that dieting causes depression, it does show that weight loss doesn’t necessarily improve mental health.

Dr. Sarah Jackson, lead author of the study, said: “We do not want to discourage anyone from trying to lose weight, which has tremendous physical benefits, but people should not expect weight loss to instantly improve all aspects of life.” 

She added that the effect on mental health could stem from the stress of dieting, rather than a consequence of weight loss. “Resisting the ever-present temptations of unhealthy food in modern society takes a mental toll, as it requires considerable willpower and may involve missing out on some enjoyable activities. Anyone who has ever been on a diet would understand how this could affect wellbeing,” she said.2

There's no need to miss out if you're following the WW programme. Nothing's off the menu, including your favourite restaurants. Check out our SmartPoints® guides to popular restuarants like Nando's, McDonald's and Wagamama!

1. Faulconbridge, L, et al. (2009) Weight loss improves mood in depressed people. Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour.

2. UCL research funded by Cancer Research UK.