Weight loss maintenance is a complex, multifaceted process that presents a significant challenge for most individuals who lose weight. A growing body of literature indicates a strong relationship between cognitive dysfunction and excessive body weight, and suggests that a subset of high-order cognitive processes known as executive functions (EF) likely play an important role in weight management. Recent reviews cover neuropsychological correlates of weight status yet fail to address the role of executive function in the central dilemma of successful weight loss maintenance. In this paper, we provide an overview of the existing literature examining executive functions as they relate to weight status and initial weight loss. Further, we propose a novel conceptual model of the relationships between EF, initial weight loss, and weight loss maintenance, mapping specific executive functions onto strategies known to be associated with both phases of the weight control process. Implications for the development of more efficacious weight loss maintenance interventions are discussed.
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The scope of this paper does not allow for an adequate review of fMRI and EEG findings regarding executive function and weight loss maintenance. It should be noted that executive and prefrontal functions do not operate in isolation. Neuroimaging data serve to highlight the vastly complex and integrated nature of correspondence between PFC and many other neural networks implicated in eating behavior and weight management broadly (Jansen et al., 2013, Murdaugh et al., 2012; Szabo-Reed et al., 2015).
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This work was supported by the Grant NCT02570009 from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The authors also thank Deborah Fein, Ph.D., Dean Cruess, Ph.D., Kate Boudreau, and Arielle Sherman-Golembeski.
Conflict of interest
Katelyn M. Gettens, and Amy A. Gorin declares that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and animal rights and Informed consent
All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.
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Gettens, K.M., Gorin, A.A. Executive function in weight loss and weight loss maintenance: a conceptual review and novel neuropsychological model of weight control. J Behav Med 40, 687–701 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-017-9831-5
- Weight loss maintenance
- Executive function
- Behavioral intervention
- Conceptual maintenance model