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Skill-Training Method Works for Weight Loss, Study Finds

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Oct. 23, 2000 (New York) -- Hawley, a 37-year-old Internet software engineer from San Mateo, Calif., tended to overeat whenever she was working on a project she hated.

But that was 45 pounds ago. About a year ago, Hawley signed up for a program called the Solution Method, which aims to teach people two skills that proponents of the method say can lead to long-term weight loss: self-nurturing and limit-setting.

"I lost 45 pounds with the program. I basically felt Weight Watchers and other restrictive food plans were a temporary fix and I got tired of them," says Hawley, who spoke to WebMD on condition that her last name not be used. Now, "I don't want to eat when I am not hungry, and I don't look for food to comfort me during stressful times."

The Solution Method "has changed the relationships in my life profoundly," Hawley says. "I am more in touch with my feelings. I know that I like myself and I want to take care of myself," she says, and that means eating more healthfully.

And according to results of a small study recently presentedat a meeting of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) in Denver, others are deriving similar benefits from this program, now offered in 150 hospitals nationwide.

The study showed that 19 obese participants lost an average of 13 pounds in the first 12 weeks of training and continued to shed pounds after the treatment ended, maintaining a total weight loss that averaged 17 pounds. Participants also were less depressed, exercised more, and had lower blood pressure levels after joining the program.

Study participants attended a total of 18 two-hour group sessions -- one per week -- to help them learn and practice the developmental skills. They also wrote in journals and phoned other group members to practice these skills. The researchers followed their progress for six years.

Although study author Laurel Mellin, MA, RD, warns that larger studies are needed to confirm the results, she says the results show persistent changes in the participants' emotional and behavioral balance. Mellin is an associate clinical professor of family and community medicine and pediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco.

The program, Mellin says, "turns off the drive to overeat without using diets and drugs."

"We teach these developmental skills like you would teach someone how to type, until they become the natural dominant, integral way of functioning," says Mellin, who began developing the Solution Method 22 years ago as a way to treat obese youths. "When people integrate these skills, they make a leap toward soothing and comforting themselves from the inside without external gratifiers like food.

"Traditional weight loss programs provide external sources of nurturing and limits, which can go away," she says. For example, Mellin says, your personal trainer could move away, or your doctor could cut off your diet pill prescription.

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