Psychology behind successful weight loss

June 24, 2021



By Lisa O’Loughlin (counsellor at CBS)

The International Association for the Study of Obesity in 2005 published an article in their Obesity Reviews Journal stating that increased psychological strength and stability is key to successful weight loss and maintenance.

They found that adopting new coping strategies that allow us to better handle life stressors is a crucial component to losing weight and keeping it off. What does this mean when we break it down a little? Put simply, if you identify as an emotional eater – when we eat for comfort to numb or distract from negative emotions – then developing new positive health behaviours will give us the option to choose something other than food in the moment of stress / upset. Something that makes us feel good about ourselves and also gives us that same dopamine hit food does! It can take time to build up a toolkit of coping strategies, this is something a counsellor or psychologist can help you work through.

Further emphasis on successful weight loss is placed on social support and an internal motivation to lose weight – a 2004 Swedish study found that the highest rates of bariatric surgery success happened when the individual had a high sense of self efficacy – meaning they really believed in themselves! This study even found that the people who successfully maintained the most weight loss were those who were more motivated to lose weight for reasons related to having confidence in ones self over pressure from others or for medical reasons – so unpack those emotive goals… such as wanting to run around with the kids / feel comfortable on an aeroplane. Keep your motivation up by increasing self esteem and liking yourself more!

So the psychology of successful weight loss really comes down to building new coping strategies, unpacking emotional eating, having a sense of control, managing relationships and believing in yourself.

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