Lecture title: But how do you feel? Exploring the potential motivators and benefits of weight loss
Speaker: Dr Nicola Lasikievicz, University of Chester
When individuals embark on a weight loss plan, understandably, the goal is to lose weight. Weight loss has significant physiological benefits, such as reduced risk of diabetes, lowered blood pressure and blood lipid levels. Consequently, the perceived success of a weight loss intervention is often hinged almost entirely on the amount of weight lost rather than any other improvements in, for example, psychological wellbeing. This is also reflected in the majority of studies exploring weight loss interventions. However, weight loss can also be accompanied by a range of psychological benefits. Of these benefits, increases in self-esteem, depressive symptoms, body image and vitality (within health-related quality of life) are consistently noted. Interestingly, improvements in self-esteem and depressive symptoms are not always tied to actual weight lost, particularly when behavioural interventions are followed. Despite this, few studies prioritise the psychological changes resulting from a weight loss intervention. This is surprising since understanding the changes a person goes through psychologically may be key to understanding and motivating successful weight loss following implementation of a weight loss intervention, specifically one that is behavioural in nature. Essentially, if people feel better about themselves and lose weight following an intervention, then this may promote future weight loss success or weight loss maintenance. Unfortunately, existing studies are limited in design and limit the strength of these findings. Future research, therefore, needs to consider and include psychological measures as outcomes alongside physiological measures.