One of the first questions I have for a new client, when they come to me to help them achieve better fitness, weight loss, or energy, is this:
“What it is that you want to achieve in terms of your fitness?
A close second question is “Why do you want to achieve this?”
This second question always seems to inspire deeper thought. It has always seemed like an important part of the question, to me. This is because I have consistently observed among clients that the answers to these questions have great bearing on their progress toward their goals.
So it is not surprising that during the course of my regular review of the literature on all things health and fitness that a particular study drew my attention.
The study to which I refer involved gathering information from a field of subjects in 3 different categories:
1) weight loss maintainers (3 years)
2) weight loss regainers
3) stable obese – no weight loss achieved
The goal of the study was to ascertain what factors made the difference between these 3 groups.
What’s different about those who KEPT the weight off from those who regained – from those who never were able to lose weight?
The Primary Focus
This was not an attempt to be an exhaustive study. Rather, the researchers hoped to find some common element among the “maintainers” that would provide valuable feedback as to why these particular were able to more successfully maintain their weight loss than the regainers. Or the “stable obese”.
Health Or Beauty?
They uncovered some interesting – and useful – information regarding the motivation of the “maintainers” and the “regainers”.
Revealed was some interesting – and useful – information regarding the motivation of the “maintainers” and the “regainers”.
[ Ref: Int J of Obesity. 2000 Volume 24, # 8, Pages 1018-1025. The correlates of long-term weight loss: a group comparison study of obesity. J Ogden]
The Focus Of The Study Questionnaire:
In order to ascertain motivating factors for the subjects in the study, the questionnaire was developed to assess beliefs about the consequences of obesity.
The subjects rated a series of items to reflect the extent to which they believed they were consequences of obesity. That list included:
- medical concerns (joint problems, heart disease, stomach cancer, bowel cancer, diabetes;
- psychological considerations (depression, anxiety, phobias, low self-esteem, lack of confidence;
- motivations for weight loss relating to the following:
(a) health (be healthier, live longer)
(b) attractiveness (be more attractive, be able to wear nice clothes, feel more confident about the way I look)
(c) confidence (increase my self-esteem, like myself more, feel better about myself)
(d) symptom relief (feel less breathless, feel more energetic, feel more agile)
(e) external pressure (please my family partner, please my friends, please my doctor;
The results indicated that the weight loss maintainers reported a lower belief that [weight loss maintenance] was caused by medical factors and a greater belief that psychological changes were consequences of obesity. Further, the results indicated that they had been motivated to lose weight for reasons relating to confidence rather than pressure from others or medical reasons such as health and symptom relief. This supports previous research which has indicated a role for an individual’s model of the illness and their motivations for change.
Additional data from this study revealed some interesting what I call “variations on the theme”. This is where research analysis can get really befuddling as we realize, once again, the enormous amount of factors that have bearing on research results!
Apparently, an important factor for the “maintainers” in their success at weight loss and maintenance related to their confidence psychology. In other words, they demonstrated a high rating in terms of their belief that they could achieve success. Does “I think I can” play out in a big way here, too?
In particular, weight loss may only be both attained and maintained if obesity is perceived as a problem which can be modified and if any modifications brings changes in the short-term which are valued by the individual concerned.
What Does It All Mean?
At face value, for the purposes of this study anyway, it looks like “beauty” trumps “health” for weight loss and maintenance. At the same time, with such a powerful correlation with the “I think I can” factor at play, is it simply the personality trait of confidence that is the deciding factor? Why the stronger link between those who were confident about their ability to lose weight and maintain their loss and the desire to be more physically confident and attractive?
Ah, research! Always presents more questions than it answers!