Weight-Loss Programs Keep Pounds Off
Email Counseling Helps Weight Loss, Too
WebMD News Archive
April 8, 2003 (New York) -- Dieters are more likely to lose
pounds and keep them off when they get additional support. Researchers at a
news conference say that structured weight-loss programs not only help people
lose more weight but also help maintain that new weight.
In his research, Stanley Heshka, PhD, compared dieters randomly
assigned to either a self-help regimen or to a structured commercial
weight-loss program -- in this case, Weight Watchers. The well-known
company did fund the study, but investigators conducted the clinical trial
independent of the firm.
After the first year of the study, researchers found that the
self-help participants lost and maintained about three pounds, while the Weight
Watchers group lost and maintained about 9 to 11 pounds. After two years, the
self-helpers' weight went back to near normal, while the Weight Watchers set
had gained a little weight but had still kept a loss of about six pounds.
The study appears in the April 9 issue of The Journal of the
American Medical Association.
Researchers have not yet figured out the particular reasons why
the commercial weight-loss program was more effective than the self-help
regimen, but Heshka says the structure and assistance provided by Weight
Watchers may be important factors.
"It keeps your attention focused," says Heshka, the
lead researcher of the study and a research associate at the New York Obesity
Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. "It may be support in a
sense that others are giving you hints about what works for them, others are
encouraging you, and may actually be motivating you to try harder."
The group support environment surrounding certain weight-loss
programs may be more effective for women, Heshka says, because they tend to
like the idea of sharing success and failure stories more than men. He points
to the fact that 85% of the participants at Weight Watchers are women.
In another study published in the same issue of JAMA,
researchers led by Deborah F. Tate, PhD, of the Brown University School of
Medicine/Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., randomly assigned people who were
at risk of type 2 diabetes to two
different Internet weight-loss programs.
Both sets of dieters were given at least one face-to-face
counseling on proper nutrition, exercise, and behavior
change. They were both given a private Web site with a tutorial on weight loss, and each week, all
patients received educational materials and were prompted to submit his/her
weight information. Only one of the groups, however, also received at least
weekly email support from a professional therapist as part of their weight-loss