The strategy you use to control your weight determines success

One of my clients told me that she had "been on a diet for 30 years on and off", but was stubbornly one stone overweight. Clearly dieting doesn't work for her.

Jennifer Savage and Leann Birch from Pennsylvania State University have just published research on this very problem!

176 women were followed over four years to see how their weight changed. There were 3 types of women identified.

  • Those making no effort to control their weight
  • Those using healthy weight loss strategies
  • Those using unhealthy strategies

The results showed that women who used a mix of healthy and unhealthy strategies gained significantly more weight (about 9 pounds) than the other groups. Those who were following a healthy weight loss strategy gained about 2 pounds over the 4 years. Those who didn't try to control their weight put on about 3 pounds in the 4 years. This was after taking account in the statistical analysis of the results of things like education, income and initial BMI.

Interestingly, the group who used a mix of unhealthy and healthy strategies demonstrated the most anxiety about their weight and had poorer eating attitudes (things like defining certain foods as bad). So they worried about their weight a lot, tried all kinds of things to help them lose weight, tried to restrain their eating and despite this gained really quite a lot of weight in those 4 years. It is this involvement of anxiety that makes hypnotherapy such a useful help when trying to control your weight. When we are anxious, we often move from one approach to another, trying this diet, then trying exercise, in a miserable search for something that will help us control our weight.

So what were the strategies these women were using to control their weight?

Healthy strategies included reducing calories and amount of food, eliminating sweets, junk food and snacks, increasing activity, eating more fruit and vegetables, eating less fat or less high-carb food, and eating less meat.

Unhealthy strategies included skipping meals, diet pills, meal replacement drinks, appetite suppressant drugs, laxatives, enemas, diuretics, and fasting. The women who used these strategies gained quite a lot of weight. The report also suggests that women who worry about their weight are more likely to try these unhealthy strategies. So it could be that encouraging weight worries makes women take action, but this action makes weight problems worse in the long run.

It is possible that women who follow healthy weight control strategies are more successful simply because these strategies are more sustainable. Unhealthy strategies can lead to loss of control, overeating and bingeing, which over time results in increased weight. In fact, one of the key precursors to bingeing is restrained eating. So what determines weight loss success are the strategies we use to try to control our weight.

Although the women who used healthy strategies still gained half a pound a year, they were successful in keeping the weight gain down to a reasonable level.

But this study does confirm what has been reported many, many times. Dieting makes you fat.

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