Weight maintenance and relapse in obesity: a qualitative study.
Byrne S., Cooper Z., Fairburn C.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate, among women with obesity who have lost weight, the psychological factors associated with successfully maintaining the new lower weight, as opposed to weight regain. DESIGN: Qualitative research methods (in-depth individual interviews and group interviews) were used to assess the characteristics of successful weight maintainers, as compared with weight regainers and healthy-weight women. SUBJECTS: In all, 76 females were recruited from the community, comprising 28 formerly obese women who had lost weight and maintained their new lower weight for at least 1 y; 28 obese women who had lost weight but regained the weight that they had lost; and 20 women with a stable weight in the healthy range. RESULTS: Certain psychological factors were identified which characterised the regainers but not the maintainers. These factors were: failure to achieve weight goals and dissatisfaction with the weight achieved; the tendency to evaluate self-worth in terms of weight and shape; a lack of vigilance with regard to weight control; a dichotomous (black-and-white) thinking style; and the tendency to use eating to regulate mood. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that psychological factors may provide some explanation as to why many people with obesity regain weight following successful weight loss. The factors identified in this study need to be examined further using prospective designs.