The biggest barrier to weight loss is actually psychological, a survey has found.
Ninety percent of people do not guess this, citing diet and exercise instead.
However, eating has an emotional component and psychological well-being is important to achieve and maintain weight loss.
Understanding the cause of overeating is the key to weight loss.
People frequently have an emotional connection with food — it is this that really drives overeating.
The survey of over one thousand Americans asked them about the biggest barriers to weight loss.
The results showed that:
- 26 percent thought the biggest barrier to weight loss was poor nutrition.
- 31 percent mentioned a lack of exercise.
- 17 percent thought it was too costly to be healthy.
- 12 percent mentioned a lack of time.
Just 10 percent thought that mental health was important to weight loss.
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.”
People often use food to comfort themselves, which is what leads to overeating, said Dr Robinson:
“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.”
Dr Robinson gives three tips for understand emotional eating:
- Keep a daily diary of mood and food. Look for patterns, such as eating particular foods in response to certain moods.
- Identify which foods 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.
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 survey was commissioned by Orlando Health.