What psychological factors affect weight loss?

women deciding whether to eat well

In this article we look at five often overlook areas associated to weight loss psychology and how they may be impacting your ability to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.

1. Beliefs and self-identity

Losing weight can be a real threat to who you perceive yourself to be deep down. There are many ways in which the way you perceive yourself may be attached to your weight or food, and it may be subtle and hard to determine. Some examples may be “I’m the overweight one,” “I’m the larger one,” “I’m just a foodie” or it may be attached to your social identity, for example, as someone who is caring, loving, fun etc.

Losing a sense of who you are may well be more of a risk to you than the need to lose weight. Who would you be if you weren’t this person? Especially if those thoughts/beliefs about who you are, are attached to your friends and loved ones – then weight loss could be especially scary because it may mean a new you.

Overcome this by: create a vision board of who you want to be. See it in your vision on a daily basis. Also, become aware of who you think you are right now.

2. Unmet needs

Do you feel whole, complete, okay and good within yourself? Do you have the capacity to meet your own needs? The relationship with food can be a learnt way of managing emotions, stress, boredom or simply a vehicle for delivering pleasure.

Losing weight and keeping it off therefore requires an alternative strategy – which involves understanding what needs of yours are not being met right now and how you can effectively meet them. Otherwise, it won’t be possible to sustain weight loss if food is serving purpose far greater than its intention.

Overcome this by: create a list of twenty different things that you do to make yourself feel good and manage stress – no food included! Focus on the health promoting coping strategies that you have and consider how you can implement these into your daily routine.

3. Black and white thinking

Dieting can often be associated with black and white thinking, categorising foods and behaviours as “good” or “bad”. This can be challenging since it may contribute to a restricted/dieting mindset as well as an all or nothing approach. This may make long term weight loss less achievable and unsustainable.

Overcome this by: spending 5 minutes per day doing a guided mindfulness/meditation practise can help you to become more aware of your thoughts. Once you are more aware of your thoughts, you can more readily observe them around food/diet.

4. Thoughts/beliefs about what weight management means

If you go into weight loss thinking that it is going to be hard, then it will be hard. You create your own reality. By having strict ideas about what weight management even looks like, for example, what weight you’ll be, how you’ll feel and what it will mean for you, it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is fine if it is positive, however, if it is negative, it doesn’t bode well!

Overcome this by: spend some time talking to a professional or someone you can trust about what this process may mean for you and evaluating it.

5. Confidence in your own capabilities

If you believe that you can lose weight and maintain this weight loss, it is likely that this will happen since the actions that you take to achieve these results are in your control. If however, you believe that you won’t be able to lose weight or maintain weight loss, this will likely hinder your progress towards achieving your goals and make them harder to achieve.

Overcome this by: consistently following your unique nutrition plan – confidence comes from the actions that we take! Building confidence can come from successfully implementing actions, so start with small changes and go from there.

Work with a weight loss specialist

Our clinicians specialise in weight loss. All qualified nutrition professionals, backgrounds in the exercise industries and a vast amount of experience coaching clients towards their goals.

Check out our weight loss specialist page, where you can learn more about our services, nutritionists, functional medicine and the support and programs that we offer.

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