The Psychology of Weight Loss Part 1of 3 – Why

Amelia Phillips

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Are you struggling with losing weight? Maybe you know a loved one who is. Whether you are trying to shift 5kg (11lbs) or 50kg (110lb), understanding the psychology behind your weight is paramount. It is also one of the hardest things to do, much harder than simply following a diet book. However, if you can spend some time to really, deeply get to the bottom of your inner road blocks you will change your attitude towards food and weight for life.

This three part series will explore the psychology of weight loss firstly looking at the reasons why people want to lose weight and getting to the bottom of why you really want to lose weight. Secondly we will explore the psychology behind how to lose weight, and finally we will look at four case studies and how their thinking patterns have affected their weight loss journey.

‘I Should ‘ or ‘I Want to’. Which one are you?

There are 2 types of people out there, those who feel they should lose weight, and those who really want to. It is important to determine which one you are. A good way to find out is to ask yourself if your weight is causing you any pain. Try doing that standing naked in front of the mirror. I’m not joking! It could be physical pain, it could be social, it could be eating away at your confidence. If this is the case, how much pain are you in? If it’s a just a little, then you fall into the ‘should’ category. But if you can’t even bear the thought of standing naked in front of the mirror, then I would guess that your weight is causing you a lot of pain and you really ‘want’ to lose some.

There are many people out there who probably should lose weight but are happy in their own skin. Trust me it’s far better to be in that situation than go through what the majority of society do, which is carry a poor self image. Don’t even think about changing these people’s mind. You will be fighting an uphill battle and probably cause more harm than good. Though these people may not live as healthy a life, they are content with themselves and have accepted how they are, which is wonderful.

Choose which type you are going to be and accept yourself from a place of love.

If you have tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed again, chances are your weight is ruining your life. Every time you try and fail, I see it like a little piece of your soul has died. And when this has been going on for years, you feel like an empty shell. Not only is your confidence on how you look lowered, but your faith in yourself has diminished. This will often affect other areas of your life and it’s just not necessary.

Choose who you are going to be and do it from a place of love not from a place of failure. If you choose to stay the way you are then that is wonderful, but please learn to love yourself just as you are. If you choose to shift your attitude to food, please do it from a place of loving yourself, not from a place of anger, determination, or fear. Once you have made the choice of who you are going to be, it’s time to understand your road blocks.

Four Questions

You will need a pen and paper for this section. It’s much more effective if you take the time to write this down with thought out answers.

1.Why do I want to lose weight? Simply saying ‘to reach a target weight of X’ is not what I am looking for. That is not a guarantee of happiness. Delve deeper into the real reasons you want to lose weight. For example ‘To feel proud of how I look,’ ‘To increase my zest for life.’ ‘Because I am scared of getting sick.’ Why specifically do you want to lose weight?

2. Why am I overweight? I am not looking for logical reasons such as ‘I eat too much’ or ‘I have a medical condition.’ You may prefer to answer the question ‘Why do I eat too much.‘ Here I am looking for the fears you have that prompt you to eat. It may be ‘I feel I won’t have the energy to get through the day.’ ‘I feel my quality of life diminishes without great meals.’ ‘I use food as a reward, and feel unfulfilled without it. Again this must be specific to you and quite profound.

3. What am I hungry for? Where in your life do you feel unfulfilled? What do you yearn for that you might be replacing with food? Is it a deeper connection to a partner, maybe it’s more excitement in your life? A fresh challenge or change? Other than food, what are you really hungry for?

4. Why have I failed with weight loss in the past? Although there may be external factors, what are the deep emotions connected with them? For example ‘I had too many other pressures.’ ‘I stopped focusing on me.’ ‘I felt like a failure and didn’t have the discipline to follow through.’ It’s no good saying ‘I ran out of time.’ It might be worth evaluating where on your priority list your health and self image was when you ran out of time and why.

Before you read The Psychology of Weight Loss part 2: How: I’d like you to carefully write out the answers to the above four questions, and repeat these questions throughout your daily life. When you have a moment of over eating, or anxiety around food, repeat the questions to find deeper understanding around these road blocks. It’s amazing what a little reflection can do to help you understand your behaviors.

Once you have chosen which type of person you want to be (remember there are no right or wrongs), and once you have deeply reflected upon the four questions, then you are ready to commence the next learning stage, Part 2: how.

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  • Michael


    I’m a subscriber to your great blog so naturally when I saw this post I had to check it out. Looks like you’re off to a great start and I’m looking forward to parts 2 and 3.

    May I offer a link to a recent video episode of my podcast (The Psych Files) in which I explain some of the reasons why it’s so hard to keep our New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight? I think your readers might find this video interesting. Here’s the link:

    Keep up the great work!


  • Rebecca

    This is a very inspiring blog! The 4 questions were simple but made me think deeply. I know the answer to one of them, I do not make time for myself anymore. By ignoring my personal needs I am sabotaging my health issues and where will that lead? Nowhere good. I do not think I eat a lot of food, it is the food choices that I make. I am starting to work with a naturpath about my diet and exercise routine now and I will start doing light weight training with my whole body vibration platform 3 days a week and work on a schedule for keeping my sugar levels more consistant.

  • Helen Ryan


    Great post.

    I struggled with my weight for almost 25 years. In my eyes, I was a failure. Diet after diet, week after week, Monday after Monday, New Year after New Year. Finally one day I just stopped trying to lose weight. I made a simple decision – to get healthier. No more wanting to be thin (“I wouldn’t make it”), no more thinking a new body would change my life (“I couldn’t do it.”) I just focused on eating healthier and starting some exercise; never again wishing to be thin. Once I took the pressure off – BOOM – 10 months later I had lost 82 US pounds and in a US size 4.

    Why? Because I gave up on “looking” a certain way and went for “feeling” a certain way….healthy and strong.

  • Amelia Burton

    Hi Helen,

    You have articulated so clearly what many people need to do; stop trying, and start being. If people TRY to lose weight, it’s always a struggle, but if they begin to BE a healthy person, the weight loss is a side effect. It’s a choice that people need to make every waking moment.
    Thank you for such an insightful comment.


  • Amelia Burton

    Hi Rebecca,

    Making time for yourself is the key. But boy can it be hard! When you get pulled in all directions often your health is the first to go. But ironically if your health suffers, and you aren’t firing all cylinders then you’re no good to anyone – and you feel like hell!
    Great point and I think your plan of action is an excellent one. Keep up the good work.


  • Amelia Burton

    Thanks Michael,

    I am sure my readers will enjoy your site.


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  • Susan Beth

    Hi Amelia,

    What if we are both people. Personally, I should lose weight, but I also want to lose weight.

    I dieted so much in the past that I took an indefinite break. Not purposely. I just couldn’t bear the thought of suffering through. So perhaps I just haven’t found the right lifestyle to help me lose weight. :-(