The Psychology Behind Weight Loss And Maintaining The Result
Updated: Aug 23
Dieting and weightlosing is a hot topic that never fades. Everywhere you turn someone’s advertising a diet: high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet; paleo “caveman diet”; plain low-carb or low-fat diets, or vegan, flexitarian or Mediterranean regimens. While some do lose weight on many of these diets, very few of them actually keep the weight in the long run. In a meta-analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies, more than half of the lost weight was regained within two years, and by five years more than 80% of lost weight was regained. This means that based on our best estimates, only one in five individuals who is overweight is successful in long-term weight loss. If you've tried every diet and exercise plan and can't lose weight, there may be a psychological block in your way or simply a broken relationship with food itself.
How We Fail With Food and Dieting
We know that there are a couple of proven steps to lose weight. These are eating a healthy and balanced diet, drinking water, getting enough sleep, and exercising. But even if you follow these steps, do you sometimes feel like you struggle or lose motivation along the way?
Well, there’s an important part you’re missing out on while trying to lose weight. It’s the weight loss mindset. If you don’t have the right mindset to maintain a healthy lifestyle, losing weight can be challenging.
The psychology of weight loss works against you in some ways, but it can work for you in others. In order to get past your roadblock, you'll first need to figure out specifically, what that roadblock is.
Psychologists use the term "cognitive distortion" to refer to persistent exaggerated thoughts that are not in line with what is actually going on in the real world. People who experience all-or-nothing thinking while trying to lose weight believe that they are either a complete success or a total failure based on their food choices. If you practice all-or-nothing thinking, you probably struggle to return to a healthy eating pattern after enjoying a small indulgence. Instead, you are likely to throw in the towel and overeat based on the assumption that your diet is a complete failure.
Negative Body Image
If you are trying to change your body size and shape, you may be less than satisfied with how it looks in its current state. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your health or your appearance. But if your body image is negative, it can hinder your progress and damage your self-esteem. Those experiencing distressing preoccupations about weight and shape may also experience embarrassment in public, avoidance of activity due to self-consciousness, and excessive feelings of fatness after eating. They may focus on low-calorie foods instead of nutrient-rich ones and label foods as "good" or "bad" rather than making a complete and balanced meal plan.
Studies have found that overeating can become a chronic coping mechanism for managing life's stressors. The strategy may be more common among those who are already overweight.
And it's not just overeating that can be problematic. Your food choices are likely to change when you feel more anxious. Not only do you tend to eat more when stressed, but the foods consumed are foods that are normally avoided for weight loss or health reasons (foods that are typically higher in calories and added sugar).
Lastly, when stressed your body produces more cortisol which can lead to weight gain. Many people who are trying to lose weight, but are stressed may not see a change in their weight which is completely unrelated to their best efforts but rather related to our body's response to stress. Stress can be a big roadblock for people trying to lose weight or get healthier.
When to Seek Help
It's vital that if you experience persistent negative thoughts about your body, you seek the help of a qualified mental health specialist. Trying to control your body with diets and exercise can severely negatively impact your relationship with food and physical activity, both of which should contribute to overall wellbeing beyond a number on the scale.
A lifestyle commitment
Long-term weight control often requires more than sticking to a set number of calories and an exercise regimen. You need a structure in place to maintain the weight loss. Using the TCM principles of balanced diet, attending regular sessions of acupuncture, improving metabolism and general health with TCM herbs are a few examples on how TCM can help with weight control.