Thinking About Weight Loss

Getting rid of unhelpful thought patterns and establishing helpful ones can boost weight-loss success.
Looking at behavior
The field of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has led the way in helping people to manage their thoughts. (Read more about Mind Skills for Lasting Weight Loss.) This psychological approach includes identifying and challenging unhelpful thoughts, feelings and behaviors that get in the way of success.

In a study of overweight women in London, researchers used two CBT approaches. One was a standard program focusing on weight loss. The other program was modified to focus only on the physical and mental health risks associated with obesity — without an emphasis on losing weight. Both CBT approaches resulted in the women losing weight and maintaining the weight loss for one year. 1

Adjusting expectations
Managing thoughts to reflect realistic goals for weight loss can be beneficial. In a safe and healthy weight-loss program, the recommended rate of weight loss is one to two pounds a week after the first three weeks. (Read more about Diet, Weight Loss and Diabetes.) Yet, experts have found that the expectations for many wanting to lose weight often far exceed these guidelines. 2 Research shows that being satisfied with weight that has been lost, even if it did not meet expectations, can help to improve maintenance of weight loss. 3

Focusing on positive outcomes
Research shows the importance of believing in the ability to succeed on a weight-loss plan. In a study of obese men and women in the Netherlands, researchers found that those who had confidence in their ability to control their weight — and did not believe that it was caused by medical reasons — lost more weight. 4 Furthermore, the participants' belief in their ability to make wise food selections helped with weight loss.

Getting rid of unhelpful thought patterns and establishing helpful ones can boost weight-loss success. This involves both recognizing negative thoughts that sabotage weight-loss efforts and shaping realistic expectations about outcomes. Obesity experts believe that those who develop more realistic attitudes about their body weight and enjoy a good support network will be able to achieve greater weight loss.5

view footnotes

The Weight Watchers Approach

Weight Watchers recognizes that to succeed at weight loss, changes are needed not only in what a person does, but also in how they think and feel. Behavior modification that encourages and sustains a positive mindset for healthy weight loss is an essential part of the Weight Watchers program.

This content is reviewed regularly. Last updated December 17, 2011.


Other Science Library Topics:

The Importance of You

Social Support and Lasting Weight Loss


1Rapoport L, Clark M, Wardle J. Evaluation of a modified cognitive-behavioural programme for weight manangement. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 dec;24(12):1726-37.

2GD, Phelan S, Wadden TA, Gill D, Ermold J, Didie E. Promoting more modest weight losses: a pilot study. Obes. Res. 2004 Aug;12(8):1271-7.

3Wadden TA, Womble LG, Sarwer DB, Berkowitz RI, Clark VL, Fost GD. Great expecations: "I'm losing 25% of my weight no matter what you say." J Consult Clin Psychol. 2003 Dec;71(6):1084-9.

4Wamsteker EW, Geenen R, Iesra J, Larsen JK, Zelissen PM, van Staveren WA. Obesity-related beliefs predict weight loss after an 8-week low-calorie diet. J AM Diet Assoc. 2005 Mar;105(3):441-4.

5Traverso A, Ravera G. Lagattolla V, Testa S. Adami GF. Weight loss after dieting with behavioral modification for obesity: the predicting efficiency of some psychometric data. Eat Weight Disord. 2000 Jun;5(2):102-7.