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Dr. Drew

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Keep weight off by practicing first?

  • Researchers hypothesize that people would keep weight off better if they practiced doing so first
  • They study both the 'weight loss first' group and ‘maintenance first’ group
Keep weight off by practicing first?

Could people who have lost weight keep the unwanted pounds off if they practiced doing so first?

A new study to be published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology called “Promoting Healthy Weight with ‘Stability Skills First,’ looked into that notion.

Researchers say more than 260 overweight and obese females participated in a six-month “intervention” period that included a weight loss program and a weight maintenance program.

The women were randomly separated into two groups.  Those in the “weight loss first” group took part in a 20-week behavioral weight loss program, followed by an eight-week “problem-solving” maintenance program, which addressed weight-loss problems they might battle in the future.

But in the “maintenance first” group, the women were asked not to lose any weight as part of their eight-week “stability skills” maintenance program where they were educated on how to solve issues involving eating behaviors. The group then participated in an identical 20-week weight loss program.

The research showed that the median weight-loss for both groups was 16 pounds. However, the “weight loss first” group had gained back an average of seven pounds after 12 months. The “maintenance first” group gained back just three pounds.

Kim Gorman, weight management program director for the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado, says that asking “maintenance first” participants not to lose weight during the first eight weeks allowed them to learn important skills without fear.

As reported by CNN, Gorman, who was not involved in the research, believes the study capitalizes on two key factors for weight loss maintenance: Confidence and motivation.

"I say fear because so many of my folks lose a significant amount of weight and then fear a slight shift upward means the boat is sinking. I think (the study authors) contended with the emotional impacts associated with the scale … in short, they were prepared.”

CNN also reports, “Because the study incorporated new timing (maintenance first) and new skills (stability over problem-solving) for one group, it’s impossible to tell if one or both was behind the “maintenance first” group’s success. Going forward Kiernan would like to “untangle” those, she says. ‘Is it the content or the order’?”

Studies show that overweight participants typically give up their newly learned health habits and regain 30 to 50% of the weight they lost within one year

For more on the study, click here.

A CNN Wires report.

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