Study of Literature on Weight-Loss Maintenance

- POSTED ON: Mar 16, 2012


I've been feeling frustrated by my current maintenance results, a web search about that issue turned up an article about a study of literature on the subject, which I found interesting, even though it wasn't particularly helpful to me.

Below is part of that article, originally published in Medscape on 1/6/2012

Psychological Factors Influencing Weight Loss Maintenance


It is well recognized that most individuals who lose weight are unable to maintain that weight loss. However, the lack of evidence about the factors that cause this regain is surprising. The purpose of this study was to review the available literature to try and identify the factors that are most consistently linked with weight regain and propose strategies to assist patients to maintain their success.

An electronic search identified studies of patients whose weight loss had been achieved through behavior modification and who were then followed for the subsequent 12-18 months. Included studies were determined to have good methodological rigor and relevant data.

The literature on factors potentially contributing to weight regain were examined and clustered into 8 categories:

1. Unrealistic weight loss expectations -- studies were mixed and it cannot be concluded that this issue is a consistent predictor of weight regain.

2. Failure to achieve weight loss goals -- satisfaction with one's initial weight loss was identified to be an important factor. Those able to reach their goal weight or, alternatively, those who were satisfied with their weight loss even if it was less than their original goal were more likely to maintain this loss.

3. Dichotomous thinking -- this is defined as a "black or white" thinking pattern that leads to difficulty in accepting anything less than the original goal. This type of thinking pattern was strongly predictive of unsuccessful weight maintenance.

4. Eating to regulate mood -- another strongly predictive factor identified in this review was use of food to relieve emotional distress.

5. Disinhibition vs dietary restraint -- higher levels of disinhibition, which led to more uncontrolled eating, were associated with weight regain. In contrast, those able to maintain weight loss were better able to exercise restraint in their eating.

6. Perceived cost vs benefit -- individuals able to successfully maintain weight loss continue to find that the benefits of weight loss, whether defined as improved appearance, better health, or some unique combination of benefits, outweighed the perceived costs of weight maintenance strategies such as regulation of diet or exercise.

7. Depression -- although depression has clearly been linked to obesity, its relationship to successful weight loss maintenance is less clear. Baseline depression was not necessarily a factor, but increasing levels of depression over the time of weight maintenance did predict regain.

8. Body image -- no surprise, individuals who were more satisfied with their appearance, with steady improvement in body image throughout the time period studied, were more likely to maintain their weight loss.

None of this is really news, but it's worth thinking about again. I found their Viewpoint summary to be rather standard and uninteresting. I found the following statement particularly uninspiring….

"A number of factors associated with unsuccessful weight maintenance
are the same as those seen in patients with binge eating disorder."

 Like DUHHHH!! Don't even get me started on what I think about the way every single "non-healthy" eating behavior is now being labeled an "eating disorder".

Uh Oh, 
I think my frustration is clearly showing here again, and so now I'm going to spend some time working on my Positive Thinking.

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