Researcher Tricia M. Leahey, from the Miriam Hospital
Weight Control and Diabetes Research Centre in Providence Rhode Island, conducted the study over the course of more than six months. She found that people with more willpower/self-control were more likely to do the things needed for weight loss, like exercising and attending weight loss classes. Leahey also discovered that by doing those things, participants increased their willpower/self-control.
Self-control and weight loss
A press release
from the Miriam Hospital said Leahey's study found that the participants with greater willpower "lost more weight, were more physically active, consumed fewer calories from fat and had better attendance at weight loss group meetings." Leahey, a PhD in clinical health psychology, said that the results may seem obvious but it was worth confirming.
“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,” Leahey explains. “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.”
Study on weight loss and willpower
She used 63 participants who agreed to take part in a six month behavioral weight-loss program. They all had sessions with dietitians and exercise and behavioral physiologists. Each was put on a reduced calorie, low-fat diet, undertook physical activity and were instructed in behavior change strategies, such as relapse prevention.
A first group were tested for willpower/self-control after the study began, a second group were tested both before and after. The results were that those who worked the hardest were the most successful at weight loss. Again something that may seem obvious but the study suggests that by forcing yourself to do the things needed for weight loss, the more you are likely to develop more willpower in order to continue doing those things.
“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," Leahey said.
"And quite possibly lose more weight and improve your health."