Optimism Could Hamper Weight Loss Efforts

The weight loss industry is one which attracts several billion dollars each year from the United States alone, a fact which speaks to the national preoccupation with feeling and looking slim. A percentage of these funds are spent by those who have issues with obesity, which goes well beyond a basic inclination to lose a few pounds in preparation for a special event or to fit back into a favorite outfit. The quest to understand how those with obesity can best achieve healthy and successful weight loss has been ongoing for several years, and many different aspects of dieting, exercising, and daily living have been examined. The quest has had a particularly interesting spotlight recently in Japan, where researchers at Doshisha University have studied the effects of personality traits on weight loss among the obese.

The study administered a series of questionnaires to participants aimed at evaluating their psychosocial profiles prior to beginning supervised weight loss regimens. For a period of six months, participants worked through a weight loss program, including diet and exercise assistance as well as counseling, after which they were once again asked to complete a survey evaluating the same aspects of personality. The results found that those participants who exhibited an ability to improve their self-awareness through counseling were more successful with weight loss.

However, the results also revealed that participants who began the program with a high degree of optimism were less likely to lose weight than were those who showed some negative thoughts and feelings. While the findings may seem contrary to long-held ideas about the power of positive thinking and optimism, they are not entirely revolutionary; previous studies have uncovered similar notions, suggesting that allowing for optimism to build during the treatment itself is more effective than approaching treatment with a high degree of confidence and positivity.



© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kete


    October 11th, 2009 at 2:08 AM

    “Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst”… these words fit this situation right. Although a person undergoing a weight-loss program can hope for the best possible result, he/she may be disappointed with the final result. This should be taken in stride by being prepared for such a result right from the initial stage or may bring in negative thoughts after the program…

  • Peter


    October 11th, 2009 at 2:14 AM

    Well, well well… this might be true because of the very-optimistic adverts being put up by companies organizing such weight-loss programs… They promise the world and this spurs an increase in the expectations of the people joining the program and then when the results are not close to the out-of-the-world transition, people are disappointed. Being moderate regarding the expectations is what is required by people joining such programs.

  • Olivia


    October 11th, 2009 at 11:25 AM

    Too often in the quest for the perfect body I think that women especially set themselves up for failure. We are told time and again that all we have to do is think positive and the results will come. But that is very often not the case. Achieving the ideal takes time and commitment, and that sunny optimism can only get you so far day in and day out when the scales are not moving. There does need to be a degree of optimism but there also has to be a healthy dose of reality to go along with that, and the reality is that losing weight is not a one month challenge. This is something that many of us have to continually struggle with and work on for a lifetime, and when the journey takes that long, it is very easy to lose that optimism along the way.

  • Cena


    October 12th, 2009 at 3:17 AM

    Optimism and expectation is good, but when done in excess,it all proves to be a bane. Over-expectation,which stems from over-optimism always leads to disappointment and heartbreak and can even nervous breakdown in extreme cases.

  • Waltt


    October 12th, 2009 at 9:59 AM

    ^^ I completely agree with the fact that companies promise the world to the customers but of course, the end result fall well short of it, thereby causing a complex in the person’s mind that he/she is not good enough at all… this needs to be checked by regulating authorities…

  • Sarah


    October 12th, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    Sorry but when I am trying to change my life for the better by losing weight then I see no way that being optimistic could let me down. What am I supposed to be- mopey all of the time because the weight is not coming off as quickly as I may have expected? If I buy into that notion then I am just going to keep spinning my wheels and get no where in the end. Being optimistic about my chances for success are what is going to keep me going and I know that there are many other people out there like me and in my same shoes who feel the same way. We are tired of being depressed about our weight and are ready to make good changes for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that.

  • Gary


    October 13th, 2009 at 6:51 AM

    Unrealistic weight loss goals are sure to set even the hardest worker up to fail. That’s just the way it is.

  • Andy Ray

    Andy Ray

    October 1st, 2010 at 4:10 AM

    I completely agree with you. I myself always begin my fitness schedule in a high node but always ens in a disappointing way.

  • Kelly Montag

    Kelly Montag

    October 7th, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    I would disagree politely Sir. Nice post though, no doubt about it whatsoever. However, I would say that those who began on their weight loss and slimming pills programs with an optimistic tinge, would carry on through to being fit over long term time frames, unlike those who were not so excited about the same. But you have put the argument well. Cheers! :)

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