We never found that weight loss failure occurred as a result of “weak willpower” or ignorance.In fact individuals referred here for comprehensive analysis are always found to know more than enough about diets and lifestyle changes to have succeeded in weight loss, and in keeping that weight off, if only they had been able to sustain those changes.
Our deepest insight into why so many people failed at weight loss came from an early research study Dr. Levy was part of in 1985.
In this study, 50 patients were recruited through a newspaper advertisement. People who read it were asked to call regarding a study on weight loss failure. They had to be very overweight, have failed at weight loss for 10 yr.+ , age 25-60yr. , and be currently weight stable. They were advised that they would need to spend 2 days with us in clinic undergoing various tests to determine why they had failed at weight loss. They would also have to pay $350, as the tests needed ( dietary analysis, psychological test, Potassium 40 study etc.) were not covered under OHIP.
Honestly, we worried that no one reading that advertisement would call in; too expensive perhaps. I was shocked when many more people called than I could ever use in the study.
The very first caller said “ if I can find out why I have failed, then $350 is cheap, I’ve spend thousands by now anyway”.
She went on to say that having an honest reason for being fat meant everything to her, as that would allow her guilty feelings about being too weak-willed to fade away.
After analyzing the data from psychological tests and interviews, my colleagues and I found a very surprising and unexpected fact. All 50 volunteers had a very low score on what is termed “Drive for Thinness”, basically a measure of the likelihood that an individual has the ability to make losing weight a serious priority, devote time and energy to it to the exclusion of some other tasks, and to persevere on course long enough to succeed. So in essence, these people were , subconsciously, very deeply skeptical as to the usefulness of spending their time and money coming in. Clearly their many failures at weight loss informed their opinion that nothing they would hear from us after the research was done would be helpful in the long term. They really had given up trying to lose weight.