It doesn’t matter what diet it is that you follow, attempts to lose weight are more effective if you understand something about the psychology of overeating. Researchers at the Mexican Social Security Institute discovered this from a study they did with one hundred overweight women. The Mexicans’ research results have been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
The Mexicans got their test subjects to go on a low-fat diet or a low-carb diet. Both diets have advantages and disadvantages. A low-fat diet is easy to follow and requires few behavioural changes. A low-carb diet does require substantial changes, but on the other hand is more effective in the short term than a low-fat diet, and is therefore more motivating.
Psychologists meanwhile have built up considerable understanding of ways in which people’s eating behaviour is linked to the problems they have. Dieters that receive a couple of sessions on the psychological aspects of their eating patterns are more successful in their attempts to lose weight. This was already known from other studies. The Mexicans wanted to know whether it made any difference what kind of diet you followed. It’s known that your brain starts to work slightly differently with a low-carb diet, so who knows, maybe psychological sessions wouldn’t help Atkins dieters at all. That was probably the researchers’ reasoning.
To cut a long story short, the figure below shows how much weight the women in the low-carb group lost in six months. The curve with the black squares represents the women who were given psychological information. The curve with the white circles represents the women who just followed a diet.
The figure below shows the weight loss of the women in the low-fat diet group. White circles = no psychological sessions; black squares = with psychological sessions.
So it doesn’t matter what kind of diet you choose to lose weight – it’s an understanding of your eating behaviour that will increase your chances of success.
Br J Nutr. 2009 Aug 14:1-7. [Epub ahead of print].