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Does Successful Weight Loss Require Looking Ahead or Looking Back

Posted Feb 21 2011 5:00am

When it comes to losing unwanted weight, which counts more: focusing on what you’ve already accomplished or setting your sights on what you haven’t accomplished. “I lost 5 lbs or 10 lbs and I’m encouraged.” “I still have those 25 lbs to lose. I will work hard to get there.”

A recent research study to appear in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed that people who emphasized what they hadn’t accomplished were more committed and lost more weight over twelve weeks than people who focused on their accomplishments. In other words, knowing that their progress toward a weight-loss goal was insufficient, they were more motivated to go the rest of the way.

Now everyone knows that, statistically speaking, losing a lot of weight is a “losing” proposition. Nearly everybody “loses” when it comes to unwanted weight—meaning most people don’t lose, they maintain their excessive weight gain. If you are one of the lucky ones who stay on a diet and works hard to change your eating behavior and you do lose some weight, chances are that won’t maintain your weight loss. So how sound is research that supports the “look ahead and see how much you haven’t accomplished” approach? 

It’s probably best to see what works for you? Do you look forward, see the carrot dangling, and go for it? Or do you look back, see the carrots that you’ve eaten, you’re encouraged, so you keep eating them all the way to your weight-loss goal? Or…and it’s just possible, since people will be people, you look both ways.


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