Vitality May Be the Secret to Successful Weight Loss

The weight loss industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world. Nearly half of Americans are overweight or obese, and the majority of them are always trying to find ways to lose weight. Being overweight not only creates physical problems, such as back and knee pain, but can also be life threatening. People who have high body mass index (BMI) rates are at increased risk for serious health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. They are also more vulnerable to feelings of negative self-worth that contribute to depression and anxiety. Overweight people may create their own feelings of worth based on their image but may also find themselves the target of prejudice or discrimination because of their weight. In sum, the negative impacts of being overweight are significant.

In the quest to find successful weight loss programs, researchers, doctors and laypeople have examined the multiple aspects that affect motivation and persistence. In a recent study, Charles Swencionis of the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University in New York looked at how vitality and overall physical and psychological quality of life would be affected by weight loss in a sample of 588 overweight individuals. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three different weight loss programs for 1 year. Swencionis assessed them at the beginning of the treatment, halfway through, and again at conclusion.

He found that even with a modest weight loss of only 5 pounds, the participants had lower levels of depression and anxiety than they had prior to the program. The participants also reported higher levels of well-being and vitality. In fact, the feeling of vitality was ultimately the strongest predictor of weight loss for the participants. In sum, the results of this study demonstrate the multiple positive effects of weight loss. “However, the finding that vitality is key to weight change has implications for health care professionals treating individuals for excess weight,” said Swencionis. He believes that interventions might consider focusing on the self-control that is gained by feelings of vitality in order to create a cycle of positive reinforcement that can support weight loss efforts.

Swencionis, C., Wylie-Rosett, J., Lent, M. R., Ginsberg, M., Cimino, C., Wassertheil-Smoller, S., et al. (2012). Weight change, psychological well-being, and vitality in adults participating in a cognitive–behavioral weight loss program. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029186

Related articles:
Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?
Dieting: Our National Obsession
If Food Is Love, How Do I Love Myself?

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  • Maureen


    August 20th, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    If you are like me and have often struggled with your weight then you would know that any of us who are on that constant train toward weight loss are going to be ecstatic at losing five pounds! Learning that is always an instant lift to my mood and speaking for fellow overweight people I am sure that they feel the same way too. Any time that there is a visible and tangible change in weight loss, that’s something that we can be proud of sharing with others. That alone is enough to help me lose the blues for a while and feel a little more vital and peppy! I’m sorry that a number on the scale has that power over me, but that’s the truth of the matter for me, and honestly, that’s something that I can see, I can measure so any time there is a loss there I’ll take it!

  • sally dean

    sally dean

    August 20th, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    True, vitality may be the key to successful weight loss. But som could maintaining a strict calorie reduction and exercise plan too.

  • Andrea


    August 20th, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    I have tried every weight loss plan that has ever been created, but nothing will work until you have that feeling on the inside that you know you can be a weight loss success story.

    In the past I have tried diet after diet, but I think that they didn’t work because in the back of my head I always expected that I would fail. It’s hard to carry all of that weight around for a long time and think that you can lose it.

    But when I finally convinced myself that I could, that’s when it all worked for me. Call mit a real awakening but that spark that that realization gave me encouraged me to always keep moving ahead to my next goal and I was finally able to do it.

  • Lana


    August 21st, 2012 at 4:57 AM

    Weight loss patients may not start out with a whole lot of vitality, but I promise you, as they begin to see the differences in how they look and feel after dropping some weight, then I think that you will begin to see that vitality grow. . . and with that I think that the cumulative effect of their weight loss efforts will grow even more. The more that many lose, the more that they now feel up to the challenge and will want to see even more results. When they see the scale moving downward this provides so many people the inspiration that they have needed for years to drop the weight and to keep it off. It can be a very encouraging thing.

  • ina p

    ina p

    August 21st, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    all of these things are like an interconnecting puzzle
    increase feelings of vitality and well being and you increase the amount of weight that one ultimately will lose
    and then the lost pounds make people feel better and better, therefore leading them to greater gains
    but what about those who are losing the weight for the wrong reasons and the wrong way?
    this can actually wear them down and bring on added anxiety and depression
    weight loss is such a personal thing
    but you have to make sure that you are doing it in a way that will not bring on more health problems and that you are losing for the right reasons

  • Alyssa


    August 22nd, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    Should we be happy with the findings that even a moderate weight loss can lead to better feelings of self or should we be upset that even slightly overweight people are forced to think negatively of themselves?!

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