Mind Skills for Lasting Weight Loss

The development of behavioral and cognitive skills learned during weight loss is critical to successful maintenance.
Mind Skills for Lasting Weight Loss
CBT Techniques
More recently, behavior modification methods have expanded to include techniques from the field of cognitive therapy. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, involves the identification and modification of thinking patterns and negative mood states that can undermine lasting weight loss.1

It is widely recognized that the development of behavioral and cognitive skills learned during weight loss is critical to successful maintenance. Indeed, lacking coping and problem-solving skills appear to be important factors in weight regain after a loss.2 Black-and-white thinking, a cognitive style characterized by viewing actions as being good or bad and as right or wrong, is also a significant predictor of weight regain.3

People who have never been overweight as well as those who have successfully achieved a lasting weight loss share the characteristics of confronting problems directly (95% and 60%, respectively) and using personally developed strategies to help themselves. Those who have lost weight only to regain it are much more likely to eat unconsciously in response to emotions (70%) and not confront problems directly (10%).4

Role of Coping Skills
Successful weight-loss maintainers are less likely to be emotional eaters (using food to regulate their mood).5 They have developed coping skills to deal with stress as well as the skill of flexible restraint,6 which refers to a moderate level of control on eating. The development of coping skills is particularly helpful in dealing with food temptations and preventing the abandonment of weight management efforts.7 Mental simulation, a cognitive skill that involves creating the process for reaching a goal or dealing with a stressful situation, has also been shown to produce positive results.8

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The Weight Watchers Approach:

Behavior modification is one of the pillars of the Weight Watchers approach and includes proven behavior strategies like self-monitoring, goal setting and problem solving

This content is reviewed regularly. Last updated November 12, 2012.


Other Science Library Topics:

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2Byrne SM. Psychological aspects of weight maintenance and relapse in obesity. J Psychosom Res. 2002 Nov;53(5):1029-36.

3Byrne SM, Cooper Z, Fairburn CG. Psychological predictors of weight regain in obesity. Behav Res Ther. 2004 Nov;42(11):1341-56.

4Kayman S, Bruvold W, Stern JS. Maintenance and relapse after weight loss in women: behavioral aspects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Nov;52(5):800-7.

5Byrne S, Cooper Z, Fairburn C. Weight maintenance and relapse in obesity: a qualitative study. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Aug;27(8):955-62.

6Westenhoefer J, von Falck B, Stellfeldt A, Fintelmann S. Behavioural correlates of successful weight reduction over 3 y. Results from the Lean Habits Study. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Feb;28(2):334-5.

7Carels RA, Douglass OM, Cacciapaglia HM, O'Brien WH. An ecological momentary assessment of relapse crises in dieting. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2004 Apr;72(2):341-8.

8Taylor SE, Pham LB, Rivkin ID, Armor DA. Harnessing the imagination. Mental simulation, self-regulation, and coping. Am Psychol. 1998 Apr;53(4):429-39.