5 Personal Traits That Predict Long-Term Weight Loss Success
Some people are better at weight control than others. Here’s why.
Posted May 5, 2016
One of the first steps toward losing weight or, perhaps more importantly, preventing further gain, is usually to change some aspect of your behavior. Mostly likely, that means changing your eating and/or exercise habits, or both. Some people seem to be better at making these changes than others, and are therefore better at losing weight and keeping it off. Researchers are trying to figure out why this is true, in order to help improve the weight loss tools offered by health professionals to those who struggle.
A review of 35 studies looking at the psychological and behavioral aspects of weight loss (Teixeira et al. 2015) found that people who successfully lost weight and maintained their weight for a year or more shared several characteristics that helped them succeed. You share these traits if you have:
- high autonomous motivation. This means you enjoy making your own choices and you believe there is great value in the activities you pursue to lose weight. You are interested in taking steps toward personal growth and development, pursuing positive personal challenges, and preserving your good health. You are consistent in your behavior because it makes you feel good to know you are taking positive actions.
- strong self-efficacy. You have confidence that you can take the steps that will lead to weight-loss success and you also have confidence that you can overcome any barriers that may get in the way. You see yourself as competent.
- good self-regulation skills. You are good at self-monitoring your diet, physical activity and weight. You make use of goal setting and planning techniques and you not only have good intentions, you are highly likely to act on them. It may be especially important to have these skills early on in your journey to maintain a healthy weight.
- positive body image. You are less concerned with your weight and shape than with your health, and your self-esteem is not dependent on the way your body looks. Your weight goals are based on an internal desire to be healthy, rather than external pressures such as media messages or social stigmas. The researchers found that poor body image predicts fewer successful attempts at weight loss as well as a history of failed attempts.
- flexible eating restraint. This means that success is more likely because you don’t impose rigid dietary rules on yourself, such as an extremely low calorie diet or absolutely forbidding specific foods you normally like to eat. You feel less pressure to go on a temporary diet than to learn more about healthy weight control and putting that knowledge into action. In general, flexibility is associated with a more committed, values-based pursuit of goals.
The studies reviewed in this paper outline various traits of people who appear to be most successful at changing their behavior to improve their health and weight. This gives us some information and guidance as to attitudes and skills that may need to be developed and reinforced before long-term weight loss success is achieved.
Teixeira P, Carraca EV, Marques MM, et al. Successful behavior change in obesity interventions in adults: a systematic review of self-regulation mediators. BMC Medicine. 16 April 2015. doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0323-6