Women Happier When They Gained Weight

Weight gain in women led to increase in mental well being but decrease in physical health

(RxWiki News) Obesity is a global epidemic, affecting many populations around the world, as wellness professionals struggle to find solutions. But do the solutions lead to happiness? As women start to feel healthier, do they feel better?

A recent study showed that women felt happier when they allowed themselves to gain weight.

However, overweight and obesity are linked to health problems and disease. 

The authors concluded that there is a complex relationship between mental health and physical health. They believe that more research is needed to help understand the relationship so that effective strategies can be developed for managing obesity without impairing mental health.

"Maintain a healthy weight."

Scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München, led by Professor Dr. Rolf Holle, found that women's happiness increased as their weight increased. Regardless of whether the women were already overweight as the study began, or if they started gaining weight as the study progressed, the perceived quality of life for the women in the study increased as their weight increased.

The study focused on 3,000 female participants over a period of seven years. Body mass index (BMI) was recorded as the study progressed, as was the women's quality of life perception, based on questionnaire responses. BMI is a ratio of a person's height to weight that is used to see if someone is a healthy weight.

A heavy weight gain, of 10 percent of body weight or more, was associated with physical health impairments but also with improved happiness. 

"The results show that the influence of body weight on physical and mental health is complex. However, the understanding of these associations is crucial for developing medically effective and cost-effective strategies to prevent and manage obesity," Dr. Holle, head of Economic Evaluation workgroup at the Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management, said in a press statement.

"The challenge is to prevent weight gain and its harmful health consequences, such as diabetes, while simultaneously structuring the programs in such a way that they counteract impairments in mental well-being," said Dr. Holle.

This study was performed in Germany, where 60 percent of the adult population is overweight or obese, similar to the statistics of the United States.

The study pointed to case studies in which women felt less under pressure mentally when not preoccupied by keeping their weight down. However, the study also pointed to the current programs in Germany's health and wellness industry, questioning the productiveness of the current practices to reduce obesity.

Cliff Hamrick, LPC, of Havamal Therapy, told dailyRx News, "This study does show that the relationship between weight, exercise, and happiness is a complex one. However, there are many other studies that show that increased exercise combats depression.

"This study does not state that these women suffered from depression before the study. It could be that by asking the women to focus on their weight caused them to focus on a perceived weakness rather than being happy with their current condition. This could decrease their happiness," said Hamrick, who was not involved in this study.

"Obesity is indeed a complex issue. Looked at in through the prism of energy medicine, one of the biggest underlying causes of obesity seems to be the 'emotional baggage' that people accumulate during their lives," Bradley Nelson, DC, international lecturer in bio-energetic medicine and energy psychology, told dailyRx News.

"Emotional energies often become lodged in the body during intense emotional events, leading not only to emotional eating and self-sabotage, but to physical pain and disability as well. Energy medicine sees different emotions as different vibrational frequencies. Trapped emotions are discrete areas of energetic disturbance in the body, that seem to facilitate and enhance negative emotional responses to food, relationships, situations and more," said Dr. Nelson.

More research is needed, according to the scientists, to determine relationships between mental health and healthy weight maintenance.

This study was published in September in the International Journal of Public Health.

Review Date: 
September 9, 2013