Weight loss efforts are more likely to be sustained if a personal diet counselor is available to provide support, a new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found. Personal contact, even in the form of brief phone conversations, proved to be more effective than either web-based supports or self-directed diet undertakings.
The 36-month study, dubbed the Weight Loss Maintenance (WLM) trial, was led by Laura P. Svetkey, M.D., of Duke University Medical Center. The participants, representing a diverse adult population, were recruited through mass mailings, posted flyers, radio advertisements and print media. In phase one of the study, 1,032 participants took part in a six-month program, and those who lost at least 8.8 pounds moved on to phase two.
Three interventions were compared over 30 months in phase two of the study. The first intervention involved a combination of monthly phone conversations lasting five to 15 minutes and face-to-face meetings lasting 45 minutes to an hour every four months. The second intervention consisted of unlimited access to an online site with interactive tools that supported goal setting, planning and tracking of accomplishments. The third intervention was self directed; participants were expected to sustain their weight loss on their own.
During phase two, the participants in all three groups regained some weight, but the self-directed group regained the most at an average of 12.1 pounds. The participants who were allowed to access to online weight loss tools regained an average of 11.5 pounds. Those provided personal contact with counselors regained the least at an average of 8.8 pounds.
For all three methods, the average weight of the participants was lower at the end of the study than at the start.
Yo-yo weight loss
Investigation into the reasons why and ways of preventing weight regain after dieting is sorely needed. Far too often, adults pack the pounds back on within a few months of successfully completing a diet program. "Given the vast scope of the overweight and obesity epidemic," the authors write, "there is a critical need for practical, affordable, and scalable intervention strategies that effectively maintain weight loss."
Although there are clear benefits to maintaining weight loss, the authors add, "there is little evidence, particularly from clinical trials, on how to accomplish this objective."
The amount of weight loss required to improve cardiovascular health risk is quite modest. Every 2.2 pounds of weight loss is associated with an average decrease in systolic blood pressure of 1.0 to 2.4 mm Hg and a 16 per cent reduction the incidence of diabetes, note the researchers.
As people across the Western world continue to follow sedentary lifestyles and fail to pay the necessary attention to their diets, average weights continue to climb. Overweight and obesity are now the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
This study shines new light on an old strategy for keeping weight off once it has been lost. Get a buddy and be social in your efforts to stay on track. The Internet offers easy access to diet plans and provides many convenient tools and systems for monitoring adherence to weight loss strategies. But family and friends are the best supports of all.