A Japanese study suggests that too much optimism, at least in the early stages of a weight loss journey, could be detrimental to success.

Researchers looked at the personality traits of obese subjects who were already undergoing a dietary, exercise and counselling program. Here were some of the findings, published in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine:

  • Patients who started the program with high levels of optimistic characteristics were less likely to lose weight.
  • Patients who were able to improve their self-awareness through counseling were more likely to lose weight than those who were not.
  • Optimism improved for most patients after the six months, although this was not related to weight loss.

The research team noted that some negative emotion has a positive effect on behaviour modification because patients care more about their disease.

Interestingly, this study parallels other studies that being unhappy can lead to better motivation, and hence better performance in university.

The researchers also note that increased optimism can lead to better results in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Real World Application

Is it a bad thing to be optimistic about your fat loss? Probably not, although I think this study points to having a healthy dose of pessimism initially, and a steady dose of optimism upon seeing results.

I can't help but wonder though if they discerned between optimism and realism. I'm no psychologist, but my guess is that if your goals are realistic, then optimism would be a good thing? My instinct is that there is an optimism/realism continuum, and one must strike the right balance.

Put it this way: If your goals aren't realistic, your level of optimism won't mean squat.

Also noteworthy, studies have demonstrated that an optimistic outlook is associated with longevity, as well as reduced risk of heart disease.

The results smack of a very familiar condition called New Year's Resolution-itis - going head first into their new lifestyle with too much optimism, and not enough of a realistic outlook.

It really does make sense that the optimism would be better placed AFTER seeing some results. This is where most people need the most optimism, the point at which most people fall off the wagon.

Bottom line: There's nothing wrong with being optimistic, provided your expectations are realistic.