After sorting through weight loss studies conducted between 2003 and 2009, researchers found eight primary reasons people failed to maintain their weight loss.1 These included:
- Unrealistic weight loss expectations,
- Failure to reach weight loss goals,
- Black and white thinking (some weight loss versus meeting goal),
- Emotional eating,
- Lack of dietary restraint,
- Costs overweighing benefits,
- Depression, and
- Poor body image.
Of these, researchers concluded that weight loss expectations were surprisingly NOT a strong indicator of either maintenance or relapse. Stronger indicators included confidence in weight loss effects (health, appearance, etc.), reducing black and white thinking, dietary restraint, seeing the benefits versus the sacrifices for weight loss, and body image. Interestingly, while depression did not predict weight loss success or failure per se, increased depression levels was associated with weight regain over time. Finally, it’s no surprise that the largest indicator of successful weight loss and weight maintenance was emotional eating.
While it is rare for any one factor to be the cause of obesity or failure to maintain a healthy weight, examining possible stumbling blocks is key. Of the eight mentioned in this study, the ones that really stood out were emotional eating, depression, and the ability to show restraint, which often had an emotional connection as well.
Given these finding, it is critical that anyone wanting or needing to lose weight must first set a realistic weight loss goal. Next, to truly address weight issues, you have to get to the underlying emotional triggers.
This is best accomplished with the help of a therapist, support group, or even a 12-step program. By pairing your nutritional tools with emotional ones, you have a better chance at not only losing the weight, but keeping it off.
1Ohsiek, S and Williams, M. Psychological factors influencing weight loss maintenance: An integrative literature review. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2011 Nov;23(11):592-601.