The Plus and Minus of Weight Satisfaction

For most people, dissatisfaction with their current weight is the biggest motivator to lose weight. This dissatisfaction is a direct function of an individual’s concept of what constitutes ideal weight. Thus a change in the perception of ideal weight, and thus in weight satisfaction, is likely associated with a change in weight-loss practices.

This notion is very much in line with a recent finding by Jennifer Kuk (CON Bootcamper!) and colleagues from Toronto’s York University, just published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Kuk and colleagues examined the relationship between self-declared ideal weight, body weight satisfaction and health practices among 15,221 men and 4,126 women in the 1987 and 2001 participants of the Dallas Cooper Clinic Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study.

Interestingly, participants in 1987 reported higher ideal weights than participants in 2001, an effect particularly pronounced from 1987 to 2001 for younger and obese men (85.5 kg to 94.9 kg) and women (62.2 kg to 70.5 kg).

Perhaps not unexpectedly, for a given body mass index, higher ideal body weights were associated with greater weight satisfaction but lower intentions to lose weight.

Body weight satisfaction was also associated with greater walking/jogging, better diet, and lower lifetime weight loss but with less intention to change physical activity and diet or lose weight.

In contrast, BMI was negatively associated with weight satisfaction and was associated with less walking/jogging, poorer diet, and greater lifetime weight loss but with greater intention to change physical activity and diet or lose weight.

Thus increased weight satisfaction, in conjunction with increases in societal overweight/obesity, may decrease motivation to lose weight and/or adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors.

On the other hand, as argued before, weight satisfaction may also be protective against weight cycling and negative psychological effects, which may well be as, if not more, troubling than carrying a few extra pounds.

It will clearly be of interest to determine where exactly the psychological benefits of weight satisfaction and failure to adopt a healthier lifestyle cancel each other out.

Edmonton, Alberta