The psychological ramifications of weight management

J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 1999 May;8(4):477-82. doi: 10.1089/jwh.1.1999.8.477.


It has long been believed that food restriction leads to psychological disturbances, including depression, preoccupation with food, and binge eating. However, recent studies suggest that comprehensive weight loss programs that incorporate behavioral treatment, diet change, and encouragement of physical activity in fact can improve the psychological state, including mood. A study conducted on subjects participating in the Weight Watchers program demonstrated positive psychological changes and improved quality of life. These changes may help motivate overweight people to maintain the physical activity and nutritional practices necessary to lose and maintain weight. Programs that include group support, like Weight Watchers, have been associated with psychological benefits independent of the amount of weight lost. Furthermore, dieters who regain lost weight do not appear to experience adverse psychological consequences. The development or exacerbation of bulimia has been linked by some authors to strict dieting, but more moderate weight control programs do not appear to produce disordered eating and may help reduce binge eating among overweight people. Individuals who successfully lose and maintain weight have been shown to experience improved mood, self-confidence, and quality of life. Additionally, decreasing levels of psychological and behavioral symptoms have been associated with increasing duration of weight loss maintenance. It can be concluded that quality of life and other psychological measures improve in individuals on comprehensive weight management programs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bulimia / etiology
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / etiology
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Quality of Life
  • Weight Loss*