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Being Impulsive and a Weight-Loss Failure

Posted Feb 15 2013 5:00am

Do you have trouble with your weight and with losing your unwanted weight because you act impulsively?

In a large national sample of people in the United States, 17% were found to be impulsive, with impulsivity defined as “rapid unplanned reactions to internal or external stimuli with diminished regard to the negative consequences of these reactions”.

Do you think you are impulsive? Does this definition fit you? If so, are you impulsive only with regard to eating and weight, or are you impulsive in other areas of your life as well?

What causes you to act impulsively, and can you do anything about it? Whether you are impulsive infrequently or it’s a pattern, the immediate cause is usually some situation or event that triggers a heightened emotional reaction.  

Can you do something about being impulsive so that your impulsiveness does not affect your ability to stay on your diet and lose all of that unwanted weight? Yes you can. If risk-taking, for example, is your form of being impulsive, this is something you can try to manage better when you’re trying to lose some weight. If you make up your mind too quickly and this leads to mistakes and poor judgment, you can try taking more time to think things out or try using more in-depth problem-solving techniques.

If managing your impulsive behavior doesn’t work because you have a more set pattern of impulsiveness, then you probably have to get at the heart of what is making you act impulsively. This could involve identifying your motivation for acting impulsively. Do you want to get away from unpleasant feelings and thoughts, for example, and doing something impulsively is what gives you the perfect escape route? In this case, you might work directly on being able to better tolerate your unpleasant feelings and thoughts, or you could see how to go about resolving what caused the thoughts and feelings, so you don’t have to experience them in the first place.

For goodness sake, though, don’t let an impulse get the best of you when you are trying to reduce your weight. There is always something you can do about it.

If you need more help with using psychology to lose weight, please go to The Reading Room and the White Paper, both of which are in the left-hand column of this blog at Or, if you want to have an actual book or an e-book to read through and refer to, check out the weight-loss books for women section on the right-hand side of this blog.

If you need more specific help, email us at and we’ll point you in the right direction.


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