Emotional Weight: How To Cope Psychological Factors In Weight Control

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Americans are obsessed with issues of weight. Articles in newspapers and magazines, television shows and books are constantly dealing with weight loss, obesity, eating disorders and related issues. Despite this preoccupation, more Americans are overweight than ever before.

What influences weight?

Both biological and psychological factors influence your weight.

Biological (genetic) factors play a significant role in determining your weight and are manifested through a variety of mechanisms including:

  • Basal metabolic rate
  • Number of fat cells
  • A "set point" or "set weight"

Psychological factors include:

  • One's eating habits
  • Sensitivity to external cues
  • Emotional "triggers" to eating
  • Use of food as a means of modulating emotions
  • A lack of other regular sources of pleasures in one's life

Being overweight has both health consequences and psychological implications.

Treatment approaches


A broad variety of treatment approaches have been developed. Dieting can, of course, result in weight loss; unfortunately, people tend to regain most (if not all, or even more) of the weight they lost when the diet is over. Behavioral therapy techniques hold more promise for lasting weight loss. Some behavioral therapy techniques include self-monitoring, stimulus control, slower eating and cognitive techniques.

Exercise, including both programmed activities and lifestyle activities, is extremely important. Sometimes more general psychological counseling is needed to help people make other psychological changes so that food and eating will occupy a less important place in their lives.

Maintaining weight loss is an important concern and involves different attitudes, strategies and behaviors than losing weight.

Public's attitude toward weight

Perhaps an even more basic issue is the public's attitude toward weight, especially "ideal weight." There needs to be a shift in our culture's extreme premium on and preoccupation with thinness. Not only would this shift contribute markedly toward reducing the incidence of eating disorders, it would go a long way toward increasing the amount of happiness in the lives of millions whose satisfactions - and self-esteem - seem directly correlated with their weight.


This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional written health information, please contact the Health Information Center at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771 or visit www.clevelandclinic.org/health/ This document was last reviewed on: 11/1/2003