Weight Loss: Over 1,000 Psychologists Agree On Most Common Barrier

Over one thousand psychologists agree on the biggest barrier to weight loss.

Over one thousand psychologists agree on the biggest barrier to weight loss.

The greatest barrier to weight loss is emotional eating, a survey of psychologists finds.

Losing weight is about addressing the issues behind emotional eating.

So said almost every psychologist polled about successful weight loss.

Emotional eating refers to the way in which the emotions can trigger eating.

One example might be responding to feeling bored by eating a bag of chips.

Another might be reacting to feeling sad by eating ice cream.

Emotional eating often begins in childhood when treats are given as rewards for good behaviour.

Psychologists help people break the cycle of emotional eating by identifying situations and feelings that trigger it.

Changing the habit is about spotting the triggers and then changing the response.

Strategies psychologists recommend to help with this process include mindfulness, cognitive therapy and problem-solving.

Professor Norman B. Anderson, an expert on mind/body health, said:

“Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few pounds and keep them off knows that doing so isn’t easy.

The good news is that research and clinical experience have shown that, in addition to behavioral approaches, cognitive behavioral therapy that targets emotional barriers helps people lose weight.”

The survey included 1,328 licensed psychologists who were asked how they helped their clients lose weight.

The need to target emotional issues was highlighted by 92 percent of respondents.

Professor Anderson said:

“Although it is generally accepted that weight problems are most often caused by a combination of biological, emotional, behavioral and environmental issues, these new results show the key role of stress and emotional regulation in losing weight.

Therefore, the best weight loss tactics should integrate strategies to address emotion and behavior as well as lifestyle approaches to exercise and making healthy eating choices.”

The study was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center for the American Psychological Association.


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Author: Jeremy Dean

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, 2013) and several ebooks.