What Can Psychological research teach us about weight loss?

In the long term diets always fail....


Did you know that  average caveman had to run 16 kilometers a day to catch his prey- so he deserved to stuff his face.

Unfortunately we are no longer moving even half as much as that!

Today 44% of the diabetes burden and 23% of the heart disease burden up to 41% of cancer burdens are linked to obesity.

In the U.S.A 75% of adults are overweight! Obesity kills more people than starvation!

So weight gain has some serious physical health consequences, but I want you also to think about the psychological consequences.

To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.

I had a client who was carrying over 50 extra pounds of weight. She couldn't enjoy the good things in life- she couldn't enjoy a special occasion and having to shop for clothes that fitted her. She was in a very bad way emotionally and ultimately she was depressed.

There are so many people who are severely unhappy with their body and yet they struggle to lose the weight.

We must stop ignoring the psychological effects of being overweight and we must stop ignoring what psychology can teach us about weight loss.

There is a common misconception out there that losing weight is easy if you just need to eat less and move more.


This is an over simplified premise.

 If calories in is less than calories out you lose weight right?

Physiologically this is correct, but humans are far more complicated than that!

A recent survey asked dieters-'What weight loss are you aiming for ?'

The average dieter wanted to lose about 25 kg/55 lbs.

After 12 months of eating less the dieters had lost on average 6 kg/ 12 lbs. (8 kg-17 lb with exercise)

A lot less than you would expect!

Out of everyone that started out only 50% were still making the effort to lose weight after 12 months.

This leads us to another major problem: once we lose the weight- what happens after is that we gain at least some of it back!

Our expectations do not align with reality. They are perpetuated by the media and lose weight fast programs as we try to lose weight with sheer will power alone. So we set ourselves up to fail.

 So from a psychological perspective-why do Dieters fail?

1. Most diets are structured around deprivation

ie- "I'm not going to eat that thing that I love because I am trying to lose weight!"

So this is a position of punishing yourself and eventually you are going to cave in and eat the thing you love, because we are fighting against the pleasure principal- the fact that we are hard wired to experience pleasure and avoid pain. Prohibiting the things we love to eat simply will never work.

2. We rely on Self control

We have this idea that if we had enough will power weight loss would be easy.

But what psychology tells us is that we only have a finite amount of self control. Think of will power like a muscle- when you use it, you get tired. And that's what happens with self control- when you exertself control you become fatigued and that's what psychologists call 'ego depletion'.

When we experience ego depletion we are less able to use self control again. So we give in or give up!

3. When dieting we rely on the psychology of thought suppression

or what's also known as the 'white bear effect'. What that simply means is if your told not to think about a white bear- what do you end up thinking about? a white bear!

weight loss therapy Dublin 4

So it works the same way with a craving for a food you want-  if you tell yourself- I can't have that take away curry- it's really bad for me. Then all you can think about it the curry.  This happens because when we try to suppress a thought, on a pre-conscious level we then must scan for the thought that we are trying to suppress and that means that we have to be aware what the thought actually is.

So it keeps popping up in our consciousness and then we have to keep repressing it- this is a very tiring to do!

So when you're trying to lose weight and the curry thought keeps popping up I want you to acknowledge the thought.

Say to yourself "tonight I'll have curry!" You must indulge your thoughts and cravings in a positive way.

You can have curry, tell yourself - "I'm going to make it myself and it will be full of healthy non-processed natural good quality ingredients and it's going to taste fantastic!"


The Psychology behind successful weight loss: 

Let me share with you some psychological research about successful dieting....

1. People who successfully lose weight and keep it off don't see/conceptualise it as a diet.

They do not undergo deprivation & self punishment because this is not sustainable in the long term. They do not battle with themselves on a daily basis to stave off foods they love.

2. They see it as a positive lifestyle change.

So think about making changes in your life, to the way you think and they way you behave- that is what this course is all about! Artful eating teaches you how to love your body and food- weight loss is a joyous consequence! Successful weight loss is about treating your body well and with positivity and kindness. It's about improving your life not just losing weight!

3. A personalised approach works best.

Eat the foods that you like do the exercise that you enjoy. Make sure it fits it into a schedule, commitments and preferences that work for you. That is why I don't prescribe any specific food program. You can eat anything as long as you seek out the best quality you can afford. 

4. psychological research shows that to achieve successful weight loss and to maintain it, you need the right supports.

The right advice and the right strategies to deal with things that make weight loss difficult from a psychological stand point. You need to be taught the right cognitive skills.

So if you or someone you know is in need of some specialised weight loss therapy, get in touch and I'd love to tell you more about Artful Eating: The psychology of lasting weight loss!