Behavioral and emotional factors that lead to regaining weight

The long haul

Most of the time here in the Reality Health Check, I give you tips and practical advice  about how to lose weight–and how important weight loss is when it comes to keeping your blood sugar in control, fending off diabetes, and maintaining a healthy heart (just to name a few of the beneficial things a proper diet can do for you).

In my practice, however, I spend most of my time teaching people how to keep weight off once they’ve lost it.

It’s not as sexy and it’s not the stuff people want to hear…but it is critical if you want to achieve your lifelong goals. And not just the ones relating to the number on the scale. Keeping weight off directly impacts just about every aspect of your health as well.

What surprises my patients most about this phase of their journey to good health is that most of the “tips” are psychological in nature.

The reason for this shift in focus is that by the time you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, you’ve already committed to eating a healthy diet (which can be easy–and delicious–when you follow my New Hamptons Health Miracle) and getting some exercise, so you don’t need specific advice on what to eat or how to get moving.

But, many times, people haven’t necessarily addressed their underlying relationship with food, even if they’ve managed to shed 20, 30, 40 pounds or more.

And that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make. After all, we eat with our minds much more than with our stomachs–so to exclude your mind from your weight loss plan may invariably lead to failure. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners pointed out various behavioral and emotional factors that lead to regaining weight.

Here are some of the most important:

  • Unrealistic expectations. This is why I never set a specific weight loss goal. All weight loss is good–it doesn’t matter how much or how long it takes, as long as the trend is down.
  • Failure to achieve weight loss goals. This goes hand in hand with those “unrealistic expectations.” If you’re frustrated and disappointed that you haven’t reached some arbitrary number you had in your mind, you’re much more likely to throw in the towel. This study showed that people who were satisfied with their weight loss even if it was less than their original goal were more likely to maintain this loss. But, again, the best thing you can do is forget setting a goal in the first place.
  • Dichotomous (or “black and white” thinking). Again, this goes along with the previous items on the list. People who think this way tend to have a hard time accepting anything less than their original goal. And when they can’t reach it, they give up.
  • Eating to regulate mood. This is the biggest enemy of weight management. I can’t stress enough how important it is to really focus on other ways to manage your emotions that don’t involve food.
  • Body image. Individuals who were more satisfied with their appearance, and whose body image steadily improved throughout the time period studied, were more likely to maintain their weight loss. This is another huge part of overall success–learning to accept and love your body. It will probably never be perfect (despite what the media would like us to believe, even rail-thin runway models don’t have perfect bodies), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proud of the body you’ve worked to create.

These are important points to be aware of and get a jump start on now, so that when you do reach your goals you’ll be less likely to fall victim to any of them. And I’ll be here every step of the way to help.