Size 14 Women are the Happiest

June 10th, 2014 | Posted by Erica House in Life

A recent survey of 2,000 women in the UK found that those who were a size 16 (which is the same as a US size 14) are the happiest.

Does that surprise you?

Our culture places such asinine emphasis on weight and correlates a woman’s weight with her worth. As such I’ll confess I was totally surprised that women who are a size 14, which most would consider to be average weight, were happier than their ‘thin ideal’ counterparts. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized I wasn’t surprised by those findings.

Here are some other highlights of the research:

  • 74% of size 14 women were happy with their appearance – nearly twice as many as those who are size 4 (42%)
  • 59% of size 4-8 women said they are happy with their appearance.
  • 52% of size 4 women would like to be curvier

When I was morbidly obese (yes, technically I was with a BMI of 31) I remember every year my New Years Resolution was to lose weight. I’d tell myself that this year was going to be the year that I’d get skinny and be able to wear a bathing suit and go to the beach without hating how I look. Imagine living 10 minutes from the beach and never going because you are so self-conscious. It was ludicrous! Years passed before I finally hit my goal weight and you know what – I wasn’t any happier than I had been before. I think people have all the expectations about what life will be like when they finally lose weight and while parts of it are obviously amazing (my confidence increased and I loved people telling me how great I looked!) my actual satisfaction with life stayed about the same.

fat2

I wrote about this experience for one of my first articles for MindBodyGreen. The article discussed 3 Surprising Effects of Major Weight Loss and one of those effects was increased body dissatisfaction. 

This was the hardest struggle for me. When I was overweight I saw myself as precisely that, overweight. I didn’t particularly hate my arms or my thighs I was just heavy all over. Once I started losing the weight I suddenly became hyperaware of all of the ‘problem’ areas. My legs and arms started showing definition but my stomach was sluggishly playing catch-up in my body’s fitness race. My self-esteem actually dropped some after the initial high of weight-loss subsided and I was left overanalyzing everything left I needed to ‘fix’. I also had to come to terms with some of the things I’ll never be able to fix (hello stretch marks!).

Obviously this experience isn’t the same for every person who loses weight. It was just something I wasn’t expecting. It’s like when people imagine winning the lottery and the rest of their lives would just be amazing and perfect and happy. Well, research finds that the happiness levels of people who become paralyzed in an accident or win the lottery return to their pre-life changing event levels within a year!

I’m definitely happier now then I was at a size 16, but it has very little to do with weight. I love my family, I have the best job/s in the world, and Salem only attacks me once a week now instead of daily. Once John Stamos realizes we are destined to be together my life will be pretty much complete.

Have you ever thought something was going to make you much happier than it actually did?
Do you think weight correlates with your happiness? 

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18 Responses

  • Jenny says:

    That does surprise me a little! But oh how I wish the emphasis on having to be skinny would change. It made me a tad happy to read some size 4 women wish they had more curve! Yes!!!! We are meant to have curves!

    Let’s focus on being healthy! Not having a thigh gap!

  • Anon says:

    Actually a UK size 16 is a US size 12. Plus things over here are a bit different in terms of expectations around appearance, so I’d be really interested to see a similar study of attitudes towards appearance conducted in the US.

  • Nicole M says:

    What a great post!! It’s sad how critical we are of ourselves when we are in shape or at a healthy goal weight. Comparison is definitely the thief of joy!!

  • Nicole M says:

    PS It was so good seeing you on my run this morning!!

  • Lara says:

    I’m happier now that I’m healthier. When I first started losing weight with a BMI of 27 it was because of diabetes diagnosis and back issues. The first couple of years were very hard as I had to deal with my emotional eating and give up comfort food. I had no discipline so a lot of whining with exercise. But now my BMI is 25 and I was regularly exercising (back is out) and I’m frustrated I can’t run. It feels good to wear smaller clothes and have less bulges and flab. But more than that the sense of accomplishment that I’ve made my health a daily priority. No diabetes meds for me!

  • Wow this is crazy! For me my I”m super happy in my personal life right now but am very unhappy with the way I look. I think this is because just a year ago I was 30 pounds lighter. I don’t think losing weight will make my life happier, because I already have a great life, but getting back to where I want to be will make me feel better about myself.

    • Erica House says:

      I’m sorry to hear you are unhappy :( I can definitely empathize though. It’s hard to find a balance between wanting to be thinner because it’s healthier, and not letting your happiness depend to much on it.

  • Rach says:

    I don’t mean to be nit-picky because this is a really good post but I think that a UK size 16 is more like a US 12. I’ve been living in the UK for the past 10 years and lost a lot of weight since living here and usually the US sizes are 4 sizes smaller than the US (e.g. I wear a US2 which is a UK6 and EU 32). Don’t think it makes that much of a difference to your message. Also, the average size in the UK used to be a 14…which is probably a whole other topic in itself.

    • Erica House says:

      Thank you for that insight! I’m certainly ignorant of UK clothing sizes and just went off the equivalent’s given in the article. I think it’s about time a universal clothing size chart is adopted!

  • Marcia says:

    I don’t know. Color me skeptical on this one. I suspect a study like this would be very hard to validate. Personally I think it’s one’s nature in general that determines overall happiness. I was happy when I was 50 lbs heavier and I’m just as happy now. I feel better now and I don’t nit-pick problem areas. I think this is very subjective and I wouldn’t correlate happiness and size.

    • Erica House says:

      They have done numerous studies to show that there is a genetic ‘set point’ for happiness. Happiness levels can be controlled by attitude, but I think to many women ‘let’ their happiness be affected negatively by society’s standards of beauty.

  • Coco says:

    Interesting study. I was a size 12 most of my life and not happy about it — mostly because of societal pressures. I am much happier now, but for the years I was losing weight and struggling with emotional eating, I was less happy than before I lost weight even though I was a size 4. So, I probably went from feeling blah about my weight to feeling awful about it, to feeling great, as my size went from a 12 to a 4/2/0 to a 2/4.

    • Erica House says:

      Your story sounds similar to mine! I am happier now that I’m healthy and fell in love with running, but take away those two components and I may have actually been happier overall when I was a size 12.