If you have known cardiovascular risk factors, weight management may already have become a major priority for you. However, the problem that most people experience is maintaining weight loss for a significant period of time.
Evidence suggests that methods such as monitoring your dietary intake, physical activity, being accountable for your own weight loss, and regular physical activity will lead to sustained weight loss. However, very few studies have adequately tested alternative methods of maintaining weight loss.
A new study published in JAMA (March 2008) found that participants of weight-loss programs who had brief, monthly personal contact with a weight loss counselor, regained less weight than other participants.
The study included 1,032 overweight or obese adults with hypertension, dyslipidemia, or both, who had lost on average 19 pounds during a 6-month weight loss program.
They were randomly allocated one of the following groups for 30 months:
- Group one: monthly personal talks on diet and physical activity with trained weight loss counsellors. The talks were usually delivered via telephone, but they also received a one-hour face-to-face meeting every four months.
- Group two: access to an interactive website with information and tools to track weight, keep food diaries, and monitor exercise levels.
- Group three: after initially receiving printed information with diet and lifestyle recommendations at the beginning of the study, and also meeting briefly with a trained counsellor once in the middle of the study, this groups weight loss was largely self-directed.
Following this intervention, most participants regained some weight with:
- 12.1 pounds being regained in the self-directed group.
- 11.5 pounds being regained in the website based group.
- 8.8 pounds being regained in the personal-contact group.
However, 71% of the study participants weighed less than their entry weight, by the end of the study. Researchers concluded that monthly brief personal-contact sessions could "Provide a modest benefit in sustaining weight loss, whereas an Internet-based intervention provided early but transient (short-lived) benefit." Although the study result may not be terribly significant, it's important to remember than even modest weight loss can improve cardiovascular risk factors.
Personal contact with weight loss specialist may be beneficial because:
- The counselor can encourage motivation to continue.
- Goals are set and emphasised at each session.
- Nutritional queries can be addressed.
- Creates a sense of weight loss accountability - participants become accountable to someone other than themselves.
What should you do if you need to lose weight? Try to:
- Adopt healthy eating habits.
- Focus on lifestyle changes that are important to you.
- Reduce calorie intake - read labels, reduce portion sizes, avoid fatty and sugary foods.
- Record all food and exercise habits in a journal.
- Get support from your family, friends, workmates, or perhaps join an online forum.
- Consider setting up a one-to-one visit, or online consultation, with a registered dietitian for added support.
Melanie Thomassian is a dietitian and author of Dietriffic.com, an online resource for credible healthy eating tips for busy people.