Why do so many diets fail? In theory losing weight is easy. Simply eat slightly less than the body needs over a sustained period. Yet in reality only a small percentage of people lose weight and keep it off. And whilst it’s true that most diets would be successful if followed, many fail to acknowledge the psychological impact of weight loss. As Oprah Winfrey once famously said “Diet‘s don’t work, you’ve got to get to the reason that lies behind overeating.” She had rightly identified what many scientific studies had already indicated. By changing our mental attitude to food we can change our behaviour. Without that change in attitude there is little chance of long term success.
The Scientific Evidence
A laboratory controlled study conducted at the Littlemore Hospital, Oxford, England concluded that the effect of just food restrictive, weight loss programmes were “surprisingly ineffective as a means of achieving sustained weight loss“. That’s because dieters seem to exhibit one of two distinct behavioural styles.
Behavioural Style One. The dieter starts full of enthusiasm only to revert to their previous eating style before reaching their desired weight. A chart that plots the fallout rates shows that 82% will lose heart in the first five weeks. Typically a specific food or event would trigger the initial break in their resolve, after which the dieter would increasingly revert to their old behaviour.
Behavioural Style Two. Between 3% and 8% of dieters would stick to their diet and achieve their desired weight. Then over time – usually between six months and two years later 70% of this group would have gained most or all of the weight they had previously lost. This leaves only 2% of dieters with sustained, permanent weight loss.
This study is backed up by a substantial study conducted by The University of London, England. Its theme was effective and permanent weight reduction. They were evaluating the effectiveness of combining traditional diet control with positive psychology. Their findings overwhelmingly determined that by combining these techniques weight loss was much more effective and sustainable than just using a calorie controlled diet in isolation.
Whilst many people can and do lose weight using a controlled diet this does not address the psychological issues that surround eating patterns. For example, the act of eating produces complex ‘psychological anchors’ that link the process to emotions like pleasure, satisfaction, self-esteem. Break or change these anchors and losing weight becomes much easier.
Increasingly this has been addressed by books like the ‘No Diet, Diet‘ which have specific tips, suggestions and actions that deal with the psychology of weight loss. So if you are serious about sustained and permanent weight loss, take a tip from The University of London study and combine diet control with a change in your mental attitude. Because based on the research it seems that successful weight loss really is all in the mind.
Jim Brackin provides tips, help and advice on talking cures to variety of magazines like Cosmopolitan, Real, Spirit and Destiny and Women’s Own. During his time as a body language expert for Sky News (UK) he created an effective no diet weight loss programme which is now available as a download.