Think Willpower is the Only Key to Losing Weight? Think Again

Think Willpower is the Only Key to Losing Weight? Think Again 
Weight Watchers Survey finds 71 per cent of Canadians believe
weight-loss success hinges on willpower; 
Introducing Weight Watchers 360°. Finally, a weight-loss program
built for human nature, designed to help make healthy choices
TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 12/03/12 --  
Editors Note: There is an image associated with this press release. 
Behavioural science has long disproved the common misconception that
willpower is the key to weight-loss success. This will come as a
surprise to the more than 10 million Canadians who have failed at
weight-loss attempts in the past year. A new survey, conducted by
Weight Watchers Canada, has found 52 per cent of Canadians who
started a weight-loss regimen in the past year were unsuccessful,
citing a lack of willpower as the most common reason for falling off
the weight-loss wagon. 
But there is light at the end of the tunnel as new research continues
to demonstrate why there is much more than willpower to consider when
we attempt to lose weight. This research uncovered what is called
hedonic hunger; the desire to eat for pleasure when we see, smell or
even think about highly palatable foods. With this knowledge, Weight
Watchers has developed a new approach to weight-loss that will change
the way Canadians tackle their obesity issues. 
It couldn't come at a better time as 52%(1) per cent of Canadians
have been classified as overweight or obese. Combine this with the
obesogenic environment in which we live, where we are bombarded every
day with an abundance of unhealthy food choices and it becomes a
growing trend with serious consequences for both individuals and the
country. If this trend continues, 70 per cent of Canadian adults aged
40 and older will be either obese or overweight by 2040(2).  
The Science of Hedonic Hunger  
New scientific research shows humans actually experience two
different types of hunger: homeostatic and hedonic.  
Since the 1950s, scientists have often only looked at weight
management through the homeostatic hunger lens. Homeostatic hunger is
controlled by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that tells us
when to start and stop eating based on our blood sugar levels. In
theory, this process should stop us from overeating. But we do
overeat; we can finish the food on our plates even though we're full,
and we crave dessert after dinner. The question is why? 
Enter the concept of hedonic hunger, or eating for pleasure. Some
researchers speculate that hedonic hunger may be part of a backup
system that developed from our early ancestors. Eating was a means of
survival - especially when food was scarce over the winter. Our
ancestors not only had to eat more, but they had to eat foods with
more fat and higher calories to ensure they had enough body fat to
act as a buffer against starvation. As food has become more
accessible, this hedonic reaction has not turned off, changing
something that went from being an essential survival mechanism to one
that can now drive us to overeat. So even though we're full, we can
still desire food we don't need to eat, especially those rich in
sugars or fat. 
"This emerging science on hedonic hunger really helps explain why
people struggle to make healthy choices," said Karen Miller-Kovach,
Chief Scientific Officer, Weight Watchers International. "Functional
magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows us to see how the mere
thought or sight of tempting foods light up reward centers in the
brain. In other words, it's human nature for you to eat a healthy and
satisfying meal, but then not be able to resist that piece of
chocolate cake." 
In today's world, food is very easily accessible. In fact, a study
has shown that food is so easily accessible that the average person
makes over 200 food-related decisions every day, but is only aware of
approximately 15 of them(3). Because we are biologically-programmed
to choose fattier or sweeter foods, and are inundated with so many
choices, we are actually pre-disposed to making unhealthy decisions. 
Insight into Canadian Cravings: When, What and Why  
Thirty-seven per cent of Canadians surveyed indicated that weekday
evenings are when they desire unhealthy foods the most, listing
potato chips and chocolate as the foods they find most tempting.
Forty-one per cent cited "I like the taste" as the main reason for
eating unhealthy foods.  
"The concept of hedonic hunger inspired us to rethink our approach,
because tempting food has never been more available than it is
today," said Miller-Kovach. "It is literally wired into our brains to
eat delicious foods when it is in front of us. And with these food
cues all around us, we need to learn how to clean up the places where
we live and work, plan for the situations where we have little
control, and establish routines that help make the healthy choice the
automatic choice." 
Weight Watchers is tackling hedonic hunger head on with its new 360
degrees program that builds on the PointsPlus(R) plan as its
foundation, but integrates new strategies and tools to help members
establish healthy habits. Built for human nature, the new program
combines current nutritional science with advancements in behavioural
science. Weight Watchers teaches members how to build healthy
routines that can become second nature, to set up their environments
to lose weight successfully and learn to keep it off in the context
of today's obesogenic environment. This comes as good news for the 62
per cent of Canadians surveyed who say that even though they did not
achieve their weight-loss goals this year, they are open to trying
About the Survey  
From November 7th to November 8th 2012 an online survey was conducted
among 1,500 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid
Forum panelists. The margin of error-which measures sampling
variability-is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been
statistically weighted according to the most current education, age,
gender and region (and language in Quebec) Census data to ensure a
sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada.
Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. 
About Weight Watchers Canada  
Weight Watchers Canada Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Weight
Watchers International, Inc., which is the world's leading provider
of weight management services, operating globally through a network
of Company-owned and franchise operations. Weight Watchers
International Inc. holds over 45,000 meetings each week where members
receive group support and learn about healthy eating patterns,
behaviour modification and physical activity.
provides innovative, subscription weight management products over the
Internet and is a leading Internet-based weight management provider
in Canada. In addition, Weight Watchers offers a wide range of
products, publications and programs for those interested in
weight-loss and weight control. 
To view the image associated with this press release, please visit
the following link: 
(1) Statistics Canada, June 2011 CANSIM, table 105-0501 and Catalogue
no. 82-221-X 
(2) Le Petit C, Berthelot JM. Obesity: A Growing Issue (2005) 
(3) Wansink B, and Sobal J. Hidden persuaders and 200 Daily
decisions. Environment and Behavior. 39:1
Image Available: 
Weber Shandwick for Weight Watchers
Aby Bueno
416 642 7893 
Weber Shandwick for Weight Watchers
Patrick Martins
416 642 7958
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