Learning to love your body, however it looks, can triple weight loss efforts, research finds.
Dieters in the study learned to be less concerned about their size and weight and other people’s opinions of them.
They were also encouraged to think that how their body looks is not as important as they think.
Happily, the researchers found, people with an improved body image, automatically eat more healthily.
The study shows that hating your own body is one of the biggests barriers to weight loss.
It is well-known that people who are overweight often have body image problems.
Overcoming these problems — especially worrying about what other people think — is hugely beneficial to weight loss.
For the study, 239 overweight women followed a standard program of diet and exercise for one year.
Half were given a special course designed to improve their body image.
This included sessions on the emotional aspects of losing weight.
This is because some overweight people tend towards emotional eating.
Emotional eating means that negative moods trigger bouts of eating to feel better, rather than eating to satiate hunger.
The women were also encouraged to love their bodies, whatever its size and shape.
The results showed that those who improved their body image lost an average of 7 percent — more than triple the weight loss of the control group.
Dr Pedro Teixeira, study co-author, said:
“Body image problems are very common amongst overweight and obese people, often leading to comfort eating and more rigid eating patterns, and are obstacles to losing weight.
Our results showed a strong correlation between improvements in body image, especially in reducing anxiety about other people’s opinions, and positive changes in eating behavior.
From this we believe that learning to relate to your body in healthier ways is an important aspect of maintaining weight loss and should be addressed in every weight control program.”
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
The study was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (Carraça et al., 2011).