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© 2018 The Authors. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Association of Applied Psychology. Background: Reframing means changing the way that a person thinks or feels about a weight loss attempt or weight loss maintenance to enhance its experience or facilitate its success. Although participants have described this, it has not been explored in the academic literature. Here, we set out to systematically review qualitative studies to examine the ways in which people use and experience reframing in self-directed weight loss. Methods: Seven electronic databases were searched to January 2017 for qualitative studies of adults with overweight or obesity attempting to lose weight or maintain weight loss through self-directed behavior change. Studies must have contained some information pertinent to reframing. Thematic synthesis was used to identify descriptive and analytical themes from the available data. Results: We included 23 studies, representing 723 participants. No study focused specifically on reframing. Most studies involved people who had tried to lose weight previously. In the most common examples of reframing, participants spoke of construing previous weight management attempts as “dieting”, whereas in current attempts they used reframing to move away from this concept. Participants spoke of finding reframing helpful because it removed the sense of depriving themselves and instead allowed them to construe the food choices as healthful. Likewise, the language of dieting created a sense of temporary effort, while construing this as a way of life allowed continuation of conscious control over energy balance without the feeling of undue effort. In some cases, these changes were bolstered by change in self-identity. Conclusions: Some people construe deliberate weight loss as a form of deprivation and cognitively reframe to avoid the negative emotions this creates and to prevent relapse. Reframing the dietary regimen as about healthy eating and a new way of life made weight control seem less burdensome for these participants and they felt able to maintain their efforts.

Original publication




Journal article


Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being

Publication Date





309 - 329