Be honest, realistic with yourself about weight loss: Acknowledging the challenges found to improve success

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(Natural News) A new study suggested that acknowledging the challenges and difficulties of weight loss and its maintenance improved success and self-control. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Drexel University who discovered that a change in the external food environment improved the study samples’ cognitive restraint and resulted to greater weight loss in the long term.

In conducting the study, the team compared three weight loss interventions — behavior therapy, behavior therapy and meal replacement, and a nutrition-based treatment focused on modifying the home food environment. They randomly assigned one of these conditions to a study sample of 262 individuals who were overweight or obese and monitored their weight for over three years. In addition, conditions such as binge eating, quality of life, cognitive restraint, and food cravings were evaluated with the use of surveys and statistical analysis.

Behavior therapy includes group support, constant weigh-ins, exercise, detailed goal setting, and tracking food consumption. It is also focused on strengthening someone’s internal sense of self-regulation over food consumption and exercise. On the other hand, meal replacement involves replacing breakfast and lunch with calorie-controlled shakes or nutrition bars.

Participants in the changing the home food environment group were tasked to identify and make many changes to particular foods that were still satisfying but with less calories. In addition, this group was also constantly reminded by the researchers about the challenges associated with weight loss and maintenance. Their vulnerability to overeat their favorite foods were also acknowledged.


“You can’t just give advice,” Michael Lowe said. “You have to work with people to eliminate and substitute very specific foods, and teach them to prepare food differently.”

The researchers believe that changing the home food environment would be the most efficient strategy for weight loss and its maintenance as it is emotionally challenging and complicated at the same time.

“HFE [home food environment] treatment is really about mechanically trying to ensure that these changes are made, so the level of chronic temptation generated by foods in their homes is reduced,” Lowe explained.

The findings of the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that those in the HFE group lost more weight compared to those in the behavior therapy group, although the difference in weight loss was modest and all participants displayed the familiar trend toward weight regain. The researchers said that being realistic about weight loss may enhance cognitive restraint over their eating in the short-term. However, this did not influence participants to make many changes to the foods they are surround with.

Lowe explained that even though the participants did not take their warnings as to what they were trying to tell them, the warnings still caused a positive effect. Cognitive restraint was observed the longest, most prolonged increase in the HFE group, in comparison to the other two treatment groups, indicating that their rhetoric about the challenges of maintaining weight loss may have actually prompted them to “push back” against this message and increase their watchfulness over their eating.

“Rather than acting as cheerleaders giving facile encouragement, leaders of weight loss groups might serve their clients better by providing a more sobering description of the challenges participants face,” Lowe explained.

Dealing with the challenges of weight loss

Losing weight is hard. You will face many difficulties throughout your weight loss journey. To help you out, here are some of the most common weight loss challenges and how to deal with them.

  • Nothing’s changing – If what you’re doing does not seem effective, change it.
  • I don’t have time – Scheduling it is the only way to make it happen.
  • I eat a lot at parties – Do not go to a party hungry, so eat a protein snack before the party.
  • I eat healthily all day but ruin it with late night snacking – It’s okay to snack at night, but eat a healthy snack that fills you up.

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