Keeping the Pounds Off: What Works
Daily Weigh-Ins, Group Meetings May Help Prevent Weight Regain
Oct. 11, 2006 -- Have you shed some extra pounds? A new medical study
provides tips for keeping the weight off.
People who weigh daily and meet regularly with others trying to maintain a
new, lower weight are more successful, according to the study, published in
The New England Journal of Medicine.
"Most dieters regain about a third of the weight lost during the next
year and are typically back to baseline [their pre-diet weight] in 3 to 5
years," write Rena Wing, PhD, and colleagues.
Her study looked at ways to prevent that.
Wing is a Brown University professor of psychiatry and human behavior. She
directs the Weight Control & Diabetes Research Center at The Miriam
Hospital in Providence, R.I.
Wing also co-founded the National Weight Control Registry, which includes
more than 5,000 adults who have maintained a weight
loss of at least 30 pounds for one year or longer.
Preventing Weight Regain
Wing's team studied 314 adults who had lost at least 10% of their body
weight over the previous two years.
The researchers split the participants into three groups. Each group
followed a different weight-loss maintenance program for 18 months.
One group met face-to-face every week.
Another group followed the same meeting schedule but held their meetings
online, not in person. They received a laptop computer and an Internet
connection, if needed.
For comparison, the third group never held meetings. Instead, those
participants received quarterly newsletters about diet, exercise, and weight
People in the online and in-person meeting groups got other support as
They were encouraged to weigh themselves daily, exercise for an hour a day,
and follow a healthy diet. They also reported their weight weekly and were
coached on weight control.
All participants were weighed six, 12, and 18 months into the study.
Green, Yellow, Red Zones
The researchers color-coded weight gain for participants in the online and
in-person meeting groups.
Those who gained less than 3 pounds were in the "green zone." They
got green gifts, such as green tea or a one-dollar bill, as encouragement.
If they gained 3 to 5 pounds, they were in the "yellow zone" and
were told to work on getting back into the green zone.
If they gained 5 or more pounds, they were in the "red zone" and
were encouraged to start losing weight by exercising and following a
low-calorie, low-fat diet.
Participants in the red zone were also offered individual counseling via
phone or email to help them get back on track. In addition, they received
books, diaries, and other products to help halt the weight gain.
Meanwhile, people in the comparison group didn't get any color-coded
messages about their weight.
Meetings, Daily Weigh-Ins Helped
After 18 months, those in the meeting groups – both in-person and online --
were less likely than people in the comparison group to have gained 5 or more
About 45% of those in the face-to-face meeting group had gained at least 5
pounds. So had nearly 55% in the online group and more than 72% in the
Average weight gain was as follows:
- In-person meeting group: 5.5 pounds
- Online meeting group: about 10 pounds
- Comparison group: nearly 11 pounds
The odds of gaining 5 or more pounds were similar for the in-person and
online meeting groups, though average weight gain was lowest in the in-person
"As compared with receiving quarterly newsletters, a self-regulation
program based on daily weighing improved maintenance of weight
loss, particularly when delivered face to face," Wing's team