Losing weight is difficult, and it can be tough to start a weight loss program when a slim body is a dream but carb-loaded foods are a reality. In fact, a 2000 study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that most Americans gain between 0.4 and 1.8 pounds every year, never to lose it again.
All of this results in a snowball effect, as you steadily gain weight throughout your lifetime and the dream of a more healthy body slips further from view. It’s no wonder, then, that the Mayo Clinic estimates lack of motivation as the biggest reason people fail to lose weight.
If you’re in need of some motivation other than the models and bodybuilders you see in advertisements, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled a list of the top five benefits of weight loss, and none of them are cosmetic. Check them out for some real motivation to get moving.
1. A Longer Lifespan
It should come to no surprise to anyone that the greatest benefits of weight loss are physical. According to a meta-analysis of research published in “Health Technology Assessment” in 2004, losing weight is associated with better health and a longer lifespan.
This is because losing weight takes you out of the line of fire for diseases and disorders like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Losing weight also decreases your risk of developing cancer. According to the Cleveland Clinic, men who are overweight have a higher likelihood of developing colon and prostate cancer, while women with excess pounds have a greater risk of breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer.
2. Improved Body Function
People who are overweight and obese are at a greater risk for balance issues and more damaging falls. When you lose weight, however, your body is better able to be flexible and mobile, which puts you at less of a risk for a dangerous fall. It also eases up pain or pressure on your joints, which could be contributing factors to balance issues and fall risk.
And of course, losing weight also leads to a stronger heart and greater lung capacity, which means more oxygen for your body. That, in turn, can spur greater weight loss and even enhance your mood.
3. A Better Night’s Sleep
If there’s one thing Americans need more of, it’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that each adult get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, but most people average around six. Luckily, losing weight can actually help you get the full night of sleep you need.
When you’re overweight, you’re at a higher risk for sleeping disorders like sleep apnea, which interrupts your breathing and can cause you interruptions in your sleep up to 400 times every night. Without such distractions, you’ll be able to fully enter your REM cycle and be better equipped to deal with the day ahead.
4. A Better Relationship With Food
When you’re overweight, there is a high likelihood that you have a poor relationship with food. Eating becomes a way of expressing emotions—you eat when you’re happy, when you’re depressed, and even when you’re bored. You even think about food when you aren’t hungry, and can make yourself believe that you are.
However, once you free yourself from this dependence on food, you’ll be better able to enjoy eating without the feelings of guilt and excess that come afterwards. You’ll also have likely opened your mind to healthier foods, expanding your pallet and enjoying things you didn’t think possible in the months or years previously.
5. Greater Confidence and Happiness
Finally, one of the greatest benefits of losing weight is what it does to your confidence level. People who are overweight often struggle with feelings of low self-worth, which diminish confidence and lead to poor interpersonal relationships and even depression.
By contrast, a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who took part in a weight-loss program experience lower levels of depression and higher levels of confidence. This is because when you take action to lose weight, you start to feel in control of your life and confident in both your body and your abilities.
How You Can Do It
All of this information may have served to get you motivated, but what you probably really want to know is how to get there.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to weight loss—the simple formula says to expend more calories than you take in by exercising more and eating a low-calorie diet. These lifestyle changes can be difficult to maintain, but the right diet pill can see you through the worst of it.
Just remember that while you’re going about losing weight, you have to stay motivated. Too many people start off with good intentions, but fall back into old habits because they don’t have the support from family or friends, or the threat of immediate health concerns to motivate them.
Instead, get together with friends and set some weight loss goals to hold yourself accountable. Make exercise fun so that you don’t dread it. And most of all, stay positive and set realistic goals, like the one to two pound per week target recommended by the Mayo Clinic.