We’ve all been there—staring at the mirror with two fistfuls of love-handle, wishing we could magically suck in the extra tummy fluff and make it disappear for good… And while having a fit, toned bod is a worthwhile endeavor, the benefits of weight loss go well beyond the purely aesthetic. Shedding a few extra pounds can enhance your mental and emotional health, provide relief from chronic pains like arthritis, and even improve your sex life! In case getting back into your favorite pair of skinny jeans wasn’t enough motivation, check out these hidden benefits to losing weight.

Step Up Your Brain Game

Keeping your body mass within healthy parameters lowers your risk for brain diseases such as sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s, and stroke. But research has shown that it can also influence the way your brain functions day to day. Unhealthy levels of body fat place additional stress on your metabolic pathways, which affect your brain’s ability to send and receive information. In related studies, patients who recently lost weight were shown to have higher levels of brain activity and increased short- and long-term memory. Slimming down doesn’t just improve physical ability, it is also a powerful tool in keeping your brain and mind working in peak condition.

Lose the ‘tude

Being overweight puts you at risk for the unstable distribution of your body’s natural chemicals, which can lead to serious emotional issues including heightened stress, anxiety, and depression. A healthy diet and regular exercise help balance those chemicals, which in turn leads to improved temperament and greater overall life satisfaction. Switching out snacks and soda for nutritious meals also helps blood sugar levels stay on a smooth, predictable track, reducing mood swings and making you less susceptible to stressors.

Sizzlin’ Sex Life

Many people report that being overweight has a significant negative impact on their sex life. Excess fat creates a resistance to insulin and can impede blood from flowing to the genitals, preventing your ability to become physically aroused. For some women, being self-conscious about weight during intercourse is so distracting that they are unable to reach climax. Dropping a few pounds can greatly enhance mobility, flexibility, and blood flow, leading to more pleasurable sex. Oh— and did I mention that rocking the casbah is itself a terrific form of exercise? With greater self-confidence, this might just become your new favorite work out.

Time to Grease the Joints

Being overweight is a burden—literally. Your joints and tendons have to work overtime to move around that extra mass, which can cause cartilage to deteriorate and eventually lead to chronic pain and arthritis. Shedding even just a few pounds drastically reduces your risk for developing these ailments, and may alleviate pains and aches for those already suffering from arthritis. And, with the reduced pressure on joints and muscles, you’ll be better able to move around and stay active, allowing you to keep off the weight you’ve lost.

Anger Management

In the fast-paced, high-demand world we live in, stress has become the norm. In fact— it’s everywhere! (If you have kids, work, read the news, or got up this morning, you know what I’m talking about.) And with so much going on, working out often gets overlooked. Before you know it, it’s been weeks, months, or even years since you’ve hit the gym. But, like riding a bike or learning to juggle, exercise only gets easier the more you do it. As your body acclimates to consistent physical activity, your recovery time will speed up and your endurance will increase, leading to a leaner, stronger body. But the benefits don’t stop there. Exercise is also an effective way to regulate your body’s production of cortisol—the hormone behind the “fight or flight” response. This means you’ll be better prepared to face stressful situations at home or in the work place, and you’ll have a great way to blow off some steam.

Live Long and Prosper

As we’ve seen, maintaining a healthy weight is about much more than just achieving a certain aesthetic. It’s about taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. The total wellness trifecta. The culminating effect of these benefits—the increased self-confidence, the improved cognitive ability, the active lifestyle—not only improves but lengthens our lives. You’ll live longer, feel better, and be able to enjoy life to the fullest!

At times, reaching your weight loss goals may seem an insurmountable task. Maybe you’ve tried before and failed. Maybe you think it’s too late. Wherever you are in your weight loss journey—don’t give up! The results may not be immediately noticeable, and it may take some time to figure out which approach to diet and exercise works for you. Remember, losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be good days and there will be bad days; there will be setbacks and there will be milestones. But like every great achievement, it all starts with the decision to try.

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