Is Motivation Enough to Achieve Long-Term Weight Loss?

Losing weight and keeping it off is a long-term endeavor. There are many ways to accomplish sustained and consistent weight loss over time to positive results and they vary from person to person.

A Dec. 2023 study in Nutrition & Diabetics assessed six months of weight loss intervention, including time-restricted feeding, alternate-day fasting, and straight caloric restriction. To measure quantitative and qualitative data, they interviewed participants two months after the six-month weight-loss period. (1)

Is motivation alone enough to achieve long-term weight loss? Not really. Nutrition scientist Dr. Layne Norton dove into the study’s findings in a YouTube video published on Dec. 27, 2023, reviewing the assessment of behavioral changes necessary to maintain weight loss long-term. Check it out below:

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Losing Weight

This 2023 study focused primarily on the psychological changes necessary to promote consistent and effective fat loss. The most significant mental factor for success was the development of feedback loops

The amount of feedback or accountability at the beginning of the six months was directly related to whether participants stuck with their diets. “Frequent check-ins with the researchers or the support staff had a really big benefit for them being adherent,” says Dr. Norton. In fact, many of the subjects didn’t enjoy the diets at the start, noting that motivation alone isn’t a foolproof initial jumpstart for long-term diet success.

Image via Shutterstock/Laborant

Behavior change sparks motivation, not the other way around. If the participants adhered to a diet and noticed changes to their health and physiques, they became motivated about the whole process and to continue it. When they committed to the process for long enough, they experienced the aesthetic benefits, which motivated them to continue.

In short, feedback and accountability fuel self-efficacy and, eventually, self-ownership.

Self-ownership is basically, ‘I have the power. I have the responsibility.I believe I can do this because I’ve seen these changes happen over time.’

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Fitting the Diet Into the Lifestyle

Dr. Norton says that adaptation is another key indicator of diet sustainability. Using meal delivery services or changing grocery lists to low-carb or extra protein can shift one’s lifestyle or diet to accommodate one’s health goals.

Small changes, sustained via help from others, can lead to more confidence and motivation. The frequency of feedback communication is important; touchpoints throughout the week can help better navigate the first month. Then, when physical changes are noticeable, confidence skyrockets.

Remodeling a lifestyle, staying accountable to a diet coach, receiving feedback from specific biomarkers, gaining self-efficacy, and taking self-ownership are necessary for a successful weight loss journey. Motivation waxes and wanes, but according to this study, changing one’s behavior is the key to changing one’s physique.


Liu, K., Choi, T. S. T., Zhao, L., Teong, X. T., Hutchison, A. T., & Heilbronn, L. K. (2023). A qualitative exploration of behaviour change and maintenance experience in people with overweight or obesity in a dietary intervention. Nutrition & dietetics: the journal of the Dietitians Association of Australia, 10.1111/1747-0080.12855. Advance online publication.

Featured image via Shutterstock/Laborant

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