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Emotions Pose Obstacle to Weight Loss, Psychologists Say

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Sure, portion size and exercise are important factors for losing weight, but psychologists say emotions often pose some of the biggest challenges for those trying to shed pounds.

A survey of 1,328 licensed psychologists conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 44 percent said "understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions related to weight management" was essential for addressing weight loss with their clients. Forty-three percent cited "emotional eating" as a barrier to weight loss — just as many said "maintaining a regular exercise schedule" was key for shedding pounds.

Of all the psychologists surveyed, 306 said they specifically provided weight loss treatment for their clients. Among those, 92 percent said they help "address underlying emotional issues related to weight gain." Over 70 percent said cognitive therapy, problem-solving and mindfulness — which can help people get a handle on thinking patterns that can lead to unhealthy behaviors — were "excellent" or "good" weight loss strategies.

"Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few pounds and keep them off knows that doing so isn't easy," Norman B. Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association, said in a statement. "Although it is generally accepted that weight problems are most often caused by a combination of biological, emotional, behavioral and environmental issues, these new results show the key role of stress and emotional regulation in losing weight. Therefore, the best weight loss tactics should integrate strategies to address emotion and behavior as well as lifestyle approaches to exercise and making healthy eating choices."

The survey results will appear in the February 2013 issue of Consumer Reports Magazine.

Survey participants were randomly selected from the American Psychological Association’s membership file. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

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Live Science Staff
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