For a group of older women, “self-efficacy” had a strong influence on whether they decided to eat healthy or exercise more. That’s the finding of a researcher at Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Self-efficacy is your belief that you can change what you want to change, no matter what the circumstance are. It means, for example, that you feel confident you can eat a healthy diet even when you’re pressed for time, faced with a holiday dessert table, or bored and unhappy. Your level of self-belief helps determine how long you stick with your plan, even when you run into a bump in the road.

In the Queensland study, researchers surveyed more than 500 women between the ages of 51 and 66 about their eating and exercise habits. About two-thirds of them were overweight, and this group was more likely to have low self-efficacy and not believe they would be able to stick with a weight-loss plan. That, in turn, made them less likely to succeed – and reinforced their beliefs about failure.

So how can you increase your self-belief? Work at it: Ask for encouragement from your friends and family, and find a realistic role model so you can tell yourself, “If she did it, I can, too!” A large part of the battle is mental.

Weight loss is hard. But it is possible, and healthy changes come packed with positive payback. Believing you can lose weight is essential to shedding pounds. 

For more sure-fire weight loss tips, visit the Arthritis Today Weight Loss Guide