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When it comes to dieting and exercise, there is a lot of talk of ‘willpower’. This can backfire and make a person feel bad about them. For example, a person that has tried to unsuccessfully lose weight over and over again will end up feeling they have no willpower or are lazy. With a bit of careful thought, one can see why such an assumption is irrational. How can a person that has tried dieting over and over again be lazy? In the same way, people that talk about willpower tend to have an extreme and radical view of dieting and exercise, and their militant approach to weight loss might not apply to everyone.

When discussing weight loss, ‘willpower’ is no longer seen as relevant. Instead, psychologists focus on motivation. It has long been known that people that are motivated to lose weight will often do so successfully. This also applies to athletes and sportsmen, the more motivation they hold, the better their performance.

  • What exactly is a motivated person? They tend to have the following characteristics:They have an extensive knowledge of their own personal reasons for wanting to lose weight
  • They are not losing weight because they “should” or “ought”
  • They are losing weight for themselves
  • They really want to lose weight and are ready to make the effort
  • They are ready for a long-term effort
  • They are aware of the challenges in the way but ready to overcome them
  • They are aware of the disadvantages of losing weight but still determined to carry on
  • They are willing to experience unwanted side effects in order to achieve their goal
  • They are aware that there is no guarantee for success
  • They are willing to do the work independently although they will receive some help and support from others
  • They clearly know what they want, why they want to lose weight, and why it is important to them

Weight loss for women

Apart from the problems with motivation, women that attempt to lose weight also have to overcome other obstacles that the opposite sex does not. Here are some of those problems:

  • Women will not lose as much fat or at the same rate as men. Most of women’s fat accumulates around the waist, hip and butt areas, there to support a woman through pregnancy. It is harder to get rid of this fat in women
  • Women are more pressured to achieving an unrealistic lean body shape, especially if that body shape was not written in the genes. Women will attempt all sorts of crazy diets, causing a lot of psychological distress in women, and also the yo-yo dieting or rebound effect.
  • Women that are unsatisfied with their body image will try to diet which can cause anger and distress, leading to anxiety and depression if binge-eating is used as a coping strategy. These individuals become over-restrained eaters which can cause even more problems in the long term.
  • Women are more prone to experience anxiety than men. They are more vulnerable when it comes to the effects of stress. This can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Stress management is an important tool when trying to lose weight.

Weight loss for men

  • Men don’t often don’t understand and accept that they need to lose weight even when being considered clinically obese. Men can sometimes see a beer belly as a natural progress through life.
  • Men are more likely to carry their fat around their stomach making them particularly prone to insulin resistance, type II diabetes and heart disease.
  • Men’s diets don’t have to be as calorie restrictive for them to be able to loose weight, they can lose weight even on a high calorie intake diet.
  • Men also have more muscle mass than women, meaning that their metabolic rate is higher. They burn more calories than women even at rest.
  • Men tend to have more positive, realistic body images about themselves. For that reason their weight loss plans will tend to be more achievable and reasonable.
  • Emotional attachment to food is less common in men than in women. They are more likely to see food as something they use to overcome hunger. As a result, they find it easier to lose weight on restrictive diets.

When it comes to overcoming weight problems, psychotherapies can help. It can increase one’s body-image, as well as improving motivation and confidence in being successful to achieve weight loss goals. Treatment can also help individuals find more effective coping strategies rather than binge-eating and provide the individual with a stress management kit.

If you think you might be suffering from an eating disorder not necessarily as a result of weight loss, please make sure you seek help from a professional specialised in this area.

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