One of the things people struggle with in life is losing weight — or more specifically, losing weight and keeping the weight off. There are hundreds of various weight loss diets, programs, and systems that show varying levels of efficacy, but for the most part they all seem to work fairly well if you follow the guidelines of the diet. After all, if you eat less food and exercise more, you will inevitably lose weight (Changing Habits for Life Success).
Initially losing weight doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when you think about it, even if it does require eating and exercise changes in order to experience weight loss. The question, however, centers around the psychology of why so many people put the weight back on over time rather than keep it off forever?
Set Point theory – but more…
Set Point theory focuses largely on our physical body system, and how our unique genetic traits communicate automatically on a regular and consistent basis and “set” at our natural level. I do see merit to this assertion, at least to some degree, as we often go through periods in our lives where we seem to “settle” at a specific weight while living a normal life – kind of like a car running on idle.
What might be added to the Set Point theory is that we seem to also “set” with our ways of behaving and thinking, meaning that we need to focus on our ways of monitoring our automatic thinking, and remember we need to change our thinking if we are to change our behaviors – and therefore, lose weight.
As human beings, we often follow the path of least resistance like an electrical current when it comes to living our lives, using our minds to help us take short cuts to navigate successfully through the world around us. We are creatures of habit, enjoying consistent patterns of behavior that are “tried and true,” and likely to bring happiness into our lives. When a person sets a goal to lose weight, behaviors and thinking must be adjusted and improved upon, thereby disrupting “set” patterns. If the individual can re-establish a new, life-long set point, a new body weight will be established and more importantly, kept forever.
Lose the challenge
My second theory as to why keeping weight off is tougher than losing the weight in the first place has to do with goal setting theory. The good news is that goals work, as hundreds of scientific studies support the notion that people who set goals almost always out-perform people who do not set goals. When people working on weight-loss programs set specific, measurable, realistic goals; they usually reach their weight-loss goals. The problem, however, is not whether goals are effective or not, but instead an issue of how goals often diminish, or become easily forgotten about, after the initial goal has been reached. In other words, when people are in the process of losing weight, there is the metaphorical “carrot” to follow, similar to how race dogs follow the rabbit around the track. Most people reach their weight loss goal, grab the carrot, and eventually go back to – you guessed it, their “set” point where the weight eventually is regained.
Food is a fire extinguisher to stress
My last big reason why people have trouble keeping weight off after they lose it is that food is one of the most gratifying ways to deal with stress! There’s no way around this one – very often our favorite foods come to mind when we feel “stressed out,” as the time enjoying food provides a tasty respite to our busy lives. Ironically, eating food is an effective method to deal with stress, as we do enjoy the act of eating delicious foods in the moment. The problem, however, is that eating food may not always be a healthy method to cope with stress, as over-eating can lead to weight gain (as well as many other physical and emotional problems). Learning and using effective and healthy means to cope with stress allows people to lose weight, as well as keep the weight off for the long-run.
Combining all 3
It is quite probable that we have unique “set points” when it comes to our automatic ways of growing as people, and that to lose weight, we must “re-set” our ways of behaving and thinking. Most theories tend to focus on the behaviors needed to be re-set, overlooking the significance of changing our thinking set points as well. When setting goals, we must regularly prioritize the goals we have already reached instead of forgetting about them, even if the original “carrot” is no longer in front of us. Without doing this, we inevitably go back to our original set point. Finally, life stressors must be responded to by using effective and healthy ways to cope and overcome. When we do this, our focus, motivation, and resiliency improves, allowing us to establish happier and more successful ways of living our lives.