Need More Willpower to Lose Weight? You Can Train For That

You can train your body, your mind … and your willpower? That’s according to a new study by researchers at The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, who say that with a little practice, it may be possible to strengthen and improve your self-control — and lose more weight.

The Miriam research team found that individuals with more willpower — or self-control — lost more weight, were more physically active, consumed fewer calories from fat and had better attendance at weight-loss group meetings. The same was true for participants who experienced an increase in self-control during a six-month behavioral weight-loss treatment program. Results of the study are published online by the Journal of Obesity Research and Clinical Practice in advance of print publication.

While the findings may seem obvious, lead author Tricia M. Leahey, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, explains there have been surprisingly few studies focusing on the impact of self-control on weight loss.

“Of course it makes sense that if you have more ‘willpower’ you’ll do better in a weight loss program; however, this phenomena is surprisingly understudied,” she says. “Our study is the first to examine whether practicing acts of self-control during weight loss is linked to an increase in self-control and better weight-loss outcomes, although other research has demonstrated this effect in the area of smoking cessation.”

Leahey added that the current study suggests self-control, or willpower, is like “building a muscle.”

“The more you ‘exercise’ it by eating a low fat diet, working out even when you don’t feel like it, and going to group meetings when you’d rather stay home, the more you’ll increase and strengthen your self-control ‘muscle’ and quite possibly lose more weight and improve your health,” adds Leahey.

Leahey led two preliminary studies to examine the role of self-control in a behavioral weight-loss treatment program. The first study involved 40 individuals participating in a six-month behavioral weight-loss intervention. The intervention included weekly sessions led by dietitians, exercise physiologists and/or behavioral psychologists, as well as private weigh-ins. All participants were given a reduced calorie, low-fat diet; a physical activity prescription aimed at increasing their activity minutes; and instruction in behavior change strategies, such as relapse prevention.

At the end of the session, researchers tested participants’ global self-control with a handgrip task, a commonly used tool that measures how long participants can hold onto and squeeze a handgrip. During the task, participants experience “aversive stimuli,” such as cramping, pain and discomfort, and have to override the desire to end the uncomfortable task in order to achieve their goal, which was to squeeze the grip at a certain intensity level for as long as possible…

Read More: sciencedaily.com

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