Ninety percent of people ignore psychological well-being as a factor in weight loss.
Most think diet and exercise — especially exercise — is actually the key to weight loss.
This may explain why most people who manage to lose weight, soon put it straight back on.
Dr Diane Robinson, a neuropsychologist at Orlando Health, said:
“Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise.
But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook and it can quickly sabotage their efforts.”
The survey of over a thousand Americans found that:
- 31% thought lack of exercise was the biggest barrier to weight loss.
- 26% said it was what you eat.
- 17% thought it was down to the high costs of being healthy.
- 12% guessed that lack of time stopped people losing weight.
Only 10%, though, supported the idea that psychological well-being was important in weight loss.
Dr Robinson said:
“That may explain why so many of us struggle.
In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat, we also need to understand why we’re eating.”
The emotional connection most people have built up with food is surprisingly powerful.
Learning to understand this connection can be more useful even than learning about the nutritional value of food.
Dr Robinson explained:
“If we’re aware of it or not, we are conditioned to use food not only for nourishment, but for comfort.
That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, as long as we acknowledge it and deal with it appropriately.”
Perhaps worst of all, comfort food doesn’t even actually improve our mood, research has found.
Dr Robinson provides three tips for those looking to understand their emotional connection with food:
- Keep a daily diary of food and mood. Look it over for any patterns which emerge. For example, are there particular foods attached to particular moods?
- Spot the foods that make you feel good. Is it about evoking a memory or are you eating from stress?
- Before eating, think: do I need this because I’m hungry or is it something else (like stress). If it’s stress, food isn’t the way to deal with it.
The survey was commissioned by Orlando Health.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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