The Psychology of Weight Loss Motivation

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ben Rawson

Dr. Ben Rawson, DO is trained in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is a current Tri-Athlete and loves running.

In some ways, weight loss is a simple process. When you consume fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight. By increasing your activity level and opting for more nutritious and less calorie-dense foods, you can expect to see a steady loss of fat.

Just because something is straightforward doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. Permanently changing your lifestyle to lose weight and maintain your weight loss requires motivation and discipline. In this day and age, we’re constantly surrounded by delicious but unhealthy foods, and it’s incredibly hard to find a balance. The key to achieving your long-term goals is understanding the psychology of weight loss motivation. By knowing how the mind works in regards to losing weight, you can learn how to persist even when the process gets difficult.

Behavioral Psychology and Weight Loss

In order to lose weight, you have to make long-term changes to your behavior. We typically form habits because we receive some type of reward for our actions. For example, it’s easy to form a habit of eating junk food every day because the salt, sugar, or fat in the food tastes good and acts as an immediate reward.

To change the habit, you have to focus on other types of rewards. The rewards of losing weight aren’t usually as obvious or as immediate as the rewards of eating unhealthy foods, though. Weight loss is a gradual, long-term process, so it’s important to set small milestones and celebrate victories along the way.

Notice that you feel better when you eat healthy meals and exercise and pay attention to small changes in the way your clothes fit or look. Have specific reasons why you want to lose weight, and allow yourself to feel excited whenever you experience the benefits of weight loss. If necessary, give yourself additional external rewards for reaching milestones, like going to the movies or buying new clothes.

Stress and Weight Loss

Stress is one of the most common and most harmful factors that get in the way of weight loss. When you find yourself constantly exposed to stressful situations, you’ll experience an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone. This can make it harder to lose fat, especially in the abdominal area.

Minimizing your stress is a great way to reach your weight loss goals. If this isn’t possible, focusing on sources of pleasure in your life can help. This could be as simple as going for an enjoyable walk in the park or drinking an excellent cup of coffee. When it comes to the psychology of weight loss, pleasure is the exact opposite of stress. It eases your nervous system, improves your digestion, and makes you feel more motivated to make long-term healthy choices.

Social Support

Humans are social by nature, and getting support from others is one of the best ways to stay motivated in your weight loss journey. When you can connect with others who are going through the same challenge, you feel a sense of solidarity with them. You don’t want them to give up, so you’re not going to give up either. You can seek support from one another and offer advice and encouragement. Whether your social support comes from a family member, friend, or online community, it can be instrumental in your weight loss.

Once the initial wave of excitement and enthusiasm for your weight loss wears off, it can be hard to stay motivated. The key is to offer your brain everything it needs to feel good, including rewards, enjoyment, and community. This will help you create lasting healthy habits that allow you to achieve your goal and maintain it for life.

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