Does Your Mind Stop You From Losing Weight?

It’s interesting to note;  the single most important factor to not just getting the weight off, but keeping it off, is between our ears. That is, how people approach the issue, psychologically speaking,  is an essential component of success. And yet, 8 zillion weight loss books and programs out there, and at best, this aspect of weight loss gets lip service only.

Closeup of obese elderly woman

Closeup of obese elderly woman

Many diet programs out there don’t address the psychological aspect of why people fail to be successful with long-term weight loss. However, quite a few studies exist that have looked at just that. In many respects, the psychological aspect is the most important for long-term weight loss, and probably the most underappreciated component.

Studies that compare the psychological characteristics of people who have successfully kept the weight off to people who have regained the weight, see clear differences between these two groups. For example, one study that looked at 28 obese women who had lost weight but regained the weight that they had lost, compared to 28 formerly obese women who had lost weight and maintained their weight for at least one year and 20 women with a stable weight in the healthy range, found the women who regained the weight:

Had a tendency to evaluate self-worth in terms of weight and shape
• Had a lack of vigilance with regard to weight control
• Had a dichotomous (black-and-white) thinking style
• Had the tendency to use eating to regulate mood.

The researchers concluded:

The results suggest that psychological factors may provide some explanation as to why many people with obesity regain weight following successful weight loss.”

This particular study was done on women, so it reflects some of the specific psychological issues women have – but make no mistake here – men also have their own psychological issues that can sabotage their long term weight loss efforts. (6)

Additional studies on men and women find psychological characteristics such as “having unrealistic weight goals, poor coping or problem-solving skills and low self-efficacy” often predict failure with long term weight loss. (7) On the other hand, psychological traits common to people who experienced successful long term weight loss include “…an internal motivation to lose weight, social support, better coping strategies and ability to handle life stress, self-efficacy, autonomy, assuming responsibility in life, and overall more psychological strength and stability.” (8)

The main point of this section is to illustrate that psychology plays a major role in determining if people are successful with long-term weight loss. If it’s not addressed as part of the overall plan, it can be the factor that makes or breaks your success. This, however, is not an area most nutrition programs can adequately tackle and should not be expected to. However, the better programs do generally attempt to help with motivation, goal setting, and support. Lack of support is one important issue I identified early, having personally trained so many people, and getting feedback from my articles, etc. That’s why my Fat Loss Revealed Program  comes with a private forum where people can get support, advice, and get answers to their questions.

If you see yourself in the above lists from the groups that failed to maintain their weight long term, then know you will need to address those issues via counseling, support groups, etc. Don’t expect any weight loss program to cover this topic adequately but do look for programs that attempt to offer support, goal setting, and resources that will keep you on track.

Note: the above is a modified section from a report I did  called “The Big Picture of Permanent Weight Loss.” More info on the topic of successful long term weight loss, the citations from the studies mentioned above, etc can be found in that report if interested.

  1. George 14 years ago

    Great article Will!
    I can personally attest to being in the first group mentioned.
    As most people I have gone up and down over the years.
    I’ve had training partners leave, lost my job and been unable to cope with ‘life stressors’ as stated in the article and piled the pounds back on after being quite successful, even at one point for over a year.
    That’s why I joined Fat Loss Revealed, as this is form of support that won’t leave me for a girlfriend or go overseas or fire me (well i hope not =)
    With a consistent social support. I believe I can get the fat off and keep it off.
    I plan on being a member for a long, long time =)

  2. I was overweight by about 10kg. I always put it down to muscle but had a high body fat percentage too. ONly in my mid 20’s did I decided to do something about it. So I guess I fall into point number 7 where you said “assuming responsibility in life” – I decided to do something about it. I did not go on a diet but made many life style changes. The results have been amazing. I am not at my ideal weight and am feeling great. It’s amazing how it boosts your self confidence. Oh and ladies must stop looking at all those fashion magazines. I think that is what really gets most of us down…

  3. makster 14 years ago

    The mind is a very powerful thing. A lot of times people fail in diets because they ” think ” they need or want something they don’t. Most people know what they need to do on a diet, but seem to “loose their way” when the mind takes over and tells them what they “want” to do.
    Most people “need” to eat right and exercise, but “want” to eat pizza and watch TV. If the mind could be kept under control, it would make dieting and life a lot easier.

  4. stacey grieve 14 years ago

    You are so bang on with this article! After a lifetime of yo yo dieting, I finally got my weight under control by paying less attention to the food and my stomach, and more attention to my mind and my thoughts! This allowed me to take off, and KEEP OFF, over 140 lbs of excess weight. As you said in your article, very few weight loss methods address the psychological aspect to permanent weight reduction, so I wrote a book to share what I had learned. It’s called “Why Are You Weighting? It’s Not the Food That’s Making You Fat!” which you can check out at You have to change yourself internally before the external can be addressed. Thanks for pointing this out to everyone, way to go!

  5. leigh 14 years ago

    I used to have trouble with my weight. Although as I got older and started to have a few pints at the weekend. I found it really hard to get the weight off. I concentrated on a good balanced diet though and increased cardio with weights on alternative sessions. Seems to have done the trick but it takes a lot longer and lot more dedication than you think.
    Increase Muscle Mass!

  6. love weight loss 13 years ago

    Losing weight is sometimes the hardest thing we have to tackle in our lives. Preparing our mind mentally is so important before we choose to lose weight.

  7. Janeen 13 years ago

    What about weight loss options for people with limited free time?

  8. Life and Health 13 years ago

    yes…loosing weight is though thing to do!

  9. sety 11 years ago

    hi Will
    thanks you for this good article
    but hasn’t refrences.what are they ? you put their numbers but we can’t see the refrences……..
    thanks so much again

    • Author
      Will Brink 11 years ago

      See the full article which is linked above for the rest of the article and all the citations.

  10. dj Blair 9 years ago

    Hi MR. Brink. Bought your e-book on how to lose the fat. I’ve got some questions I’d like to write to you about concerning weight loss, muscle building and A-Fib, which I have. This could possibly be a new addition to your already encyclopedic library of info. My apologies if you have indeed covered this area already. There’s a large number of Pep’s out there that suffer from it and still like to exercise but have only some guides. Doctors just want to dispence pills and try to keep from being sued by not dispencing info that is pertinent and out there. Anyways too much to write about at this time. Please let me know if there’s a spark!
    dj Blair

    • Author
      Will Brink 9 years ago

      By ebook, do you mean the FLR program or the shot report discussed above? If the FLR program, I recommend you post to the private forums that come with the program, so moderators, members, and myself can respond in depth.
      If you mean the report above, A-Fib can be caused by a variety of causes and range from essentially harmless to potentially deadly. So, being a medical issue, giving advice on exercise with A-Fib over the internet, would be a very bad idea.
      I’d recommend finding a doctor who understands your personal situation, and can monitor and assist you with your exercise goals. In some cases, medication is warranted and beneficial.

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