The Psychology of Weight Loss Part 3 of 3: Case Studies

Jun 22, 2016 | fitness, Weight Loss

By now I hope you have read The Psychology of Weight Loss Part 1, and Part 2. This final post looks at four people and their weight loss journey. Two subjects have achieved a weight loss of 10kg and have kept in off for over a year. The other two have tried and failed and are in the process of trying again.

As you read their answers to nine questions can you notice any differences in the attitudes or techniques used? Can you see the people who have chosen to be a certain way and the ones who are still grappling? Why don’t you sit down and answer these questions and compare your results with these four case studies.

Case Study: Successful – female, early 30’s Unsuccessful – female, early 30’s Successful – male, early 30’s Unsuccessful – male, early 40’s
Female lost 10kg and kept it off for more than one year Female trying to lose weight. Has had previous unsuccessful attempts Male lost 10kg and kept it off for more than one year Male trying to lose weight. Has had previous unsuccessful attempts
1. Why do/did you want to lose weight? Because I didn’t feel comfortable with myself. I couldn’t wear the clothes I wanted. I felt big and chunky To look good, feel good, wear the clothes I want to wear, and feel sexy I suddenly realized I didn’t have the body of 21year old any more! I wasn’t in good shape and I certainly wasn’t looking after myself. I felt overweight and unfit To feel better and look better
2. Why are/were you overweight? I would overeat when I was stressed or upset. No discipline around food Because I really enjoy food. I am not good at limiting my intake and I generally eat whatever I want to eat. Bad diet, too much alcohol, lack of exercise. When I did exercise it was pretty pathetic. I had no motivation to get fit Mismanagement of priorities. I don’t make enough time to exercise or eat properly and my metabolism has changed since I turned 35
3. What are/were you really hungry for? Comfort: Then I was stuck in a cycle where the more I ate, the more I needed to eat to feel full. Comfort: The joy of eating. The taste gives me so much pleasure. It gives me such satisfaction. I was hungry for a release from stress, relief from pressure. An outlet to be over the top. Food and alcohol gave me that Lack of worry. Worry about finances, work, family etc
4. Why have/did you failed with weight loss in the past? I didn’t. I never really had to worry until a few years ago. This was my first attempt Because I have never really accepted myself just as I am. Yes I could blame my lifestyle, too busy, no planning etc, but the reality is there are many people far busier than me losing weight. I would just put it in the ‘too hard’ basket. My diet. I love my food and my diet was always letting me down. My goal wasn’t necessarily to lose weight but to tone up. But I didn’t realize how important diet was. It didn’t matter how heavy I lifted, I still had that layer of fat. I stopped my workout program and the wheels fell off. I started taking medications (antidepressants) which made me put on weight
5. What has worked in your weight loss efforts? Exercised more and with more intensity. Now it’s 5 hours per week including spin classes. With diet I started counting calories and learnt more about nutrition. I eat 1500-1700 calories per day or 1300 when I am trying to lose weight. No bread before bed. I don’t keep temptations in the house but I still have one piece of chocolate. Planning: with meals, shopping, exercise. Being organized and having action plans when I went out such as having a coffee before lunch to help fill me up. Ramping up the intensity of my sessions. Running and boxing was when I really saw the weight fall off. Also reigning in my diet a bit (although I still can’t walk past a meat pie shop without buying one!) has helped. Setting time frames, eg 8 week program then change it. I told myself I could revert back to my old ways after 8 weeks. But I never have. Watching my diet, vigorous exercise. I have always worked well with a trainer. Getting off my medication helped. Protein shakes when I was hungry and believe it or not my Iphone. The music keeps me going!
6. What hasn’t worked in your weigh loss efforts? I ate a lot of take away Tofu at first but then discovered this particular type was packed with calories and fat. Fear: I saw a diet Nazi” for a while and although it worked initially, the fear of her wore off and I eventually put the weight back on. Being told what to do or made to feel guilty didn’t work either. I never really tried to lose weight before. It had crept on over the 5 years from 25-30, so this was my first attempt. Inconsistency. Not watching my diet and not prioritising are always my demise
7. How would you describe your self discipline in other areas of your life? Very Good. I worked my way up the corporate ladder to a national manager position. I take pride in my appearance and my house. I am a bit of a perfectionist and now I am with my eating too. I always have one relaxed day per week and enjoy going out to eat. Not too disciplined. Although I have a very high standard, I do leave things until the last minute. I am especially not disciplined with time, and not with food. Pretty disciplined about work, finances etc. My discipline to exercise is pretty good too. My eating habits have changed but I wouldn’t say I am more disciplined, I now simply have a new way of eating. Also inconsistent. I am very disciplined in work, personal hygiene, but not in diet, exercise or time management
8. How much help did you have/do you need? I pretty much did it all on my own. I used to internet to educate myself on diet, and I see my boxing instructor occasionally. My Fiancé is also very health conscious which really helps me stay on track. I went to the diet Nazi for four years pretty regularly. We would have 15min sessions once per week. Now I see a trainer once per week. My close friend was in my ear about my diet and educated me about what is in food. Then I got a personal trainer which showed me how much more intensely I should be training. He took my training to a new level. My mate holds me accountable and gets me to the gym, then I have a trainer once or twice per week.
9. What is your plan moving forward? Maintain: Continue to be active. Keep enjoying the gym. Keep on educating myself around food and find some more healthy snacks. Keep focussing on accepting my body the way it is, saying my mantra “I am this body, I will always be this body, and that’s ok.” I want to keep exercising, getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy. Acceptance comes before weight loss and then I might keep it off permanently! Continue to vary my exercise. Try to do 5 workouts per week. I want to get back into running but I am trying to improve my flexibility right now. I would like to lose 3 kg but I know that will happen when I start running again. Get organised with my food. Have more food in my office so I don’t buy takeout for lunch. Try to have 3-4 alcohol free days per week. I want to keep losing weight

Question 1: Why do/did you want to lose weight?

They all had similar reasons why they wanted to lose weight.

Question 2: Why are/were you overweight?

I observed that the two successful subjects were quite forthright with their reasons for being over weight. They were aware that they were eating more and not exercising enough rather than making excuses as to why this was the case.

Questions 3: What are/were you really hungry for?

The similarities in these answers are gender based. The girls were looking for comfort from food, the boys were looking for stress relief and a way to ease the pressures of life. Unfortunately the short term comfort and relief from over eating and lack of exercise lead to more long term discomfort and increased stress on the body. Ironic isn’t it!

Question 4: Why have/did you failed with weight loss in the past?

Everyone had very different answers. Subject 2 has a very insightful response to why she has failed in the past. She talks about accepting herself, and how she realises that until she accepts herself just as she is, she will never be satisfied with her weight which is often the major cause of yo yo dieting. She is definitely on the right track psychologically.

I can start to see a ‘blaming’ mentality develop in subject 4. If you read all his answers you can see that he looks to blame other factors rather than take full responsibility himself.

Question 5: What has worked in your weight loss efforts?

Well there is definitely a common theme of more exercise with more intensity. You can also see the varying degrees of focus with diet. You’ve got subject one who is quite strict with calories versus subject three who simply modified his eating slightly. Unfortunately this is where men often have an advantage over women.

Question 6: What hasn’t worked in your weigh loss efforts?

Interestingly the two successful subjects hadn’t tried and failed before, this was their first real attempt to lose weight. The two unsuccessful subjects said fear and inconsistency were to blame. I would agree that scaring someone into losing weight will only ever have short term effects and should not be the driving force of weight loss. Subject 4 comments on how a lack of prioritizing brought on the inconsistency with exercise which led weight gain.

Question 7: How would you describe your self discipline in other areas of your life?

It is quite obvious in this question that the 2 successful subjects are more disciplined over all than the unsuccessful group. This leads us to a very interesting question, does improving your self discipline in other areas of your life help in your weight loss efforts? If not, what is it about certain people, who might be disciplined in most areas of their life not cannot keep a lid on their food intake? Love to know your thoughts…?

Question 8: How much help did you have/do you need?

Well all subjects have had some form of help but there doesn’t seem to be any correlation suggesting that the more help you get, the better. It is interesting to note that three out of four see a trainer regularly and the fourth occasionally. I think having a trainer is very important…

Question 9: What is your plan moving forward?

It is interesting that the two successful subjects are not focused on weight loss but rather on the exercises they are doing. It is also interesting that subject 2 is also not focused on weight loss but rather accepting herself as she is. If she then chooses to eat and exercise in a healthy way, I guarantee her weight will drop.

Are you taking full accountability for your weight or are you on the blame cycle? Who do you relate to more, the successful subjects or the unsuccessful? I hope you can use the tools gained from part 1 and 2, combined with the observations from part 3 to really start to understand the psychology behind your weight loss. Ultimately you must learn to accept the body you have and then if you so choose to live a healthy life of lower calories and regular exercise, you will enjoy a healthy weight loss as well.

Have you had success with weight loss? I’d love to know how your thinking shifted for this to happen. Are you still struggling getting your head around losing weight? What can’t you let go of?


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