Today I had an out of body experience in the shower at the gym.

Like Peter Pan seeing his shadow severed from his body in a window, I looked down at my shadow on the bathroom floor for just a moment and saw a different soul.

My shadow was kind of sexy. He actually had shapely shoulders. He had arm muscles, a wider chest than waist and legs that were properly proportioned. He is of a single color in a few different gradients, his body perfectly unscarred and his face without a single wrinkle. He neither smiles nor frowns. He doesn’t cry or laugh.

There were times when my shadow has taken on different shapes. In high school, he had a 40 inch waist for a year and then a 34 inch waist the next year and a 44 inch waist the year after that. At age 31, he had ballooned up to a nearly 450 pound frame with a stomach so large that when he sat, it forced his legs out as it rested on his mid thighs.

But here’s the thing you should know about my shadow: even then he neither smiled nor frowned. He didn’t cry or laugh. He was just a form.

We would do well to take a lesson from our shadows.

So many of us approach weight loss with the goal of finding happiness at the end of our weight loss journeys. We lose weight and not find everything we’ve ever dreamt of, we look down and see loose skin and blame the skin. So we cut it off in hopes of finally finding contentment.

But it doesn’t work. Our shadow looks different. But he’s still not happy and neither are we.

Maybe we blame our relationships or seek meaning in new and improved people but they don’t bring it either. Unhappy, too many of the formerly obese fall victim to body dysmorphia, eating disorders or worse to try and lose even more weight. Regardless of what the scale says, happiness eludes us.

Like your Car Keys, Happiness is in the Last Place You Look

Alice Walker once said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

When we look for joy outside of ourselves, we have created a (false) reality where joy is something to be found there. I know this is going to be blasphemy as a weight loss blogger for me to say, but:

Losing weight will not help you become happier.

The converse to this statement, on the other hand is 100% true:

Becoming happier will make losing weight easier.

As someone who has struggled with chronic and debilitating depression, I’m not about going to be that pompous moron telling you to just “get happy” or pull yourself up by your bootstraps. For some of us, becoming happier will require professional counseling or even medication. For others of us, it may require training or self development courses. And yet others just need a little self-care. Regardless of your conditions whether they are chronic or acute, mental or physical, all positive change starts with the admission:

There is SOMETHING I can do about this.

Today my shadow taught me something magical. He hasn’t added a thing to my life, really. I’ve let his shape rule my mind and heart for my entire life. It wasn’t until I decided his shape didn’t matter that the light of joy came beaming into my life.

But only because I loved me first.