Social and Psychological
Effects of Weight Loss
GARY D. FOSTER
THOMAS A. WADDEN
Many of the effects subjects expect from weight loss are psychosocial in nature, such as improved mood, a better quality of life, or a more positive body image (see Chapter 70). Thus, it is important to review the psychosocial changes that accompany weight loss, so that both practitioners and subjects have realistic expectations. In this chapter, we summarize research findings on the effects of weight loss and weight regain, discuss our clinical impressions of changes in psychosocial functioning that occur with weight loss, and identify areas for further research.
OF WEIGHT LOSS AND WEIGHT REGAIN
Early studies, conducted before 1970, described adverse emotional reactions during weight loss, including “dieting depression,” anxiety, irritability, and nervousness (see Chapter 71). These reports, however, were based on obese psychiatric subjects and lean men. Subsequent studies conducted principally among obese women without psychiatric disturbance revealed that weight loss was associated with improvements in mood or, at a minimum, with no worsening. The most salient difference between early and later studies was the use of behavior therapy in the latter investigations. The positive effect of behavioral treatment has been confirmed in controlled trials; subjects treated with diet combined with behavior therapy showed significantly greater improvement in mood than those treated by diet alone.