People who focus on personal reasons for losing weight can boost their motivation and increase their success, a study finds.
Personal reasons include the pleasure from success, a deep-seated desire or enjoying something for its own sake.
These are known as ‘intrinsic motivations’ to psychologists and they are linked to greater weight loss success.
In contrast, focusing on things like guilt and pressure from others is less effective for weight loss — as well as any other long-term goal.
For the study, 66 people were tracked over 12 weeks as they tried to lose weight.
Psychologists measured the different types of motivations people had for losing weight as they went along.
The results revealed that people who went on to sustain a 5 percent weight loss were those who focused on personal reasons for losing weight.
Successful dieters monitored their own progress more carefully, the study found.
People who were less successful saw a drop in both types of motivation.
The study’s authors write:
“It appears that the time period between 4 and 8 weeks may be an important window for weight control programs to consider using techniques designed to enhance autonomous motivation, including giving more intense support or different types of interventions, such as activities to enhance autonomous motivation or contact from a weight-loss counselor in the form of e-mails, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings.
It is possible that motivation measured a few weeks after the study has begun more accurately captures motivation than baseline motivation for weight loss since participants have become familiar with the behavior changes that will be necessary for weight loss and can better gauge their motivation for making those changes.
These findings suggest that building motivation may be an effective means of promoting adherence and weight loss.”
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 Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (Webber et al., 2010).