Attitude is Key for Maintaining Weight Loss: Do Ya Think?!

There is no substitute for a positive attitude and confidence!

While leafing through my latest professional journal, I was happy to see research support for what I think is so important – the attitudes and behavior skill-building needed to maintain weight loss.  Let’s not forget how easy it is to lose weight relative to how hard it can be for many people to maintain the loss.  If long-term strategies are viewed as optional (“I’ll figure that out once I lose the weight”),  aggressive short-term efforts usually end in weight regain.

Most studies on weight loss and maintenance are quantitative, looking at blends of nutrients, metabolism, etc. – all of those measurable factors that look at how the body responds to calories and varying nutrients.  The recent study that caught my interest looked at the qualitative side of weight regain – What are the general behavior patterns and thought processes that are associated with maintainers that are different from the regainers?  A very good question!

Admittedly, this is a more fuzzy look at the topic, but let’s face it – as human beings, thinking that eating behaviors can be easily defined in black and white terms is a very unrealistic expectation.

The study, reported in the most recent Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, conducted focus groups consisting of people who have lost at least 10% of their body weight over the last 2 years.  Regainers were defined as those who regained at least 33% of the weight they lost, while maintainers had regained no more than 15%.

Differences in attitude stood out as significant.  The maintainers were more likely to continue the strategies that made them successful with weight loss.  In other words, they did not view them as temporary measures to be used just to “get the job done”.  They also used productive problem solving and positive self-talk, unlike the majority of regainers.

Maintainers weighed themselves regularly, while regainers did not.  I find that attitude is important here as well, and I would bet that the maintainers did not let the scale rule their mood as I see happen when people have more negative black and white thinking.

The study mentioned previous qualitative research on weight maintenance, and although it is very limited, a couple of studies offer similar interesting results.  One study found that maintainers were more active (not surprising), snacked less, and employed more effective problem-solving or support-seeking coping styles instead of avoiding issues.

Another study noted that maintainers continued diet and physical activity routines, reacted quickly to weight gain, and met non-weight goals as well as weight goals.  (My thought:  focus on other “wins” besides the scale keeps attitude more positive.)

4 responses to “Attitude is Key for Maintaining Weight Loss: Do Ya Think?!

  1. I have been working out with my girlfriend for over a month now, I weigh myself often and find it incredibly motivating. If she weighs herself and she’s gone up a pound in water weight or whatever, she goes into shut down mode. It totally is all about attitude!

    • So, so true! Once that becomes obvious, I think people can work with the attitude and realize that the rest will follow. Sounds like your girlfriend is going to have a harder time than you!

  2. On the news last night they were reporting about a weightloss boarding school for kids. While they were saying how successful the students were at losing weight, showing pictures and interviews with the kids and then they stated the the average failure rate over time for dieters is 90%. I hate when the media ruins a feel good moment like that. Hearing that figure can be so discouraging. Then I thought of 2 things:1) Charles Swindoll’s quote that “life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it (attitude).” – which is kind of ironic that the percentages are same (90/10) and reminds me that as long as i maintain a positive attitude I will be part of the successful 10%; 2) If the 90/10 failure to success ratio applies to “dieters” , what about those of us who are not on a diet but are instead making healthy lifestyle changes and losing weight I’m guessing the success rate is much higher.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Pam. You make such a great point. All of those pessimistic statistics are based on the dieting population in general, and most people are moving from crazy plan to crazy plan looking for the magic formula, a crystal clear “solution”.

      It is not easy to make a strict formula out of the attitude part, so it is too often ignored or minimized at best. The human side – all that messy attitude and emotion stuff – takes time, curiosity, and compassion to sort out. What a turn-off that is for people looking for a quick release from their problem!

      I would guess that the 90% figure has something to do with the number of people who won’t do that work. Really changing eating means really changing how we LIVE. That is probably the biggest factor separating the 10% from the 90%.

      The problem with that – as you know so well – is that people shoot down their own progress with their attitudes. Thinking they can keep going in a positive direction while pretending not to have human tendencies is what explains the 90% who fail. But, even then, if they can understand what was missing in the process, they can turn things around.

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