Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Font Size

Want to Lose Weight? Try Teamwork

Weight Loss Influenced by Team Support, Researchers Say
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Feb. 17, 2012 -- Weight loss may be influenced by joining a team.

A new study shows that people who shed at least 5% of their initial body weight during a weight loss competition were likely to be on the same teams. Those who said their teammates played a large role in their weight loss were more likely to lose a significant amount of weight.

The findings appear in Obesity.

Shows like The Biggest Loser often have team-, family-, or couples-based competitions that harness the power of peer influence when it comes to weight loss.

“People around us affect our health behaviors,” says researcher Tricia Leahey, PhD. She is with The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and is an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I.

This is true for healthy and unhealthy behaviors. “It could be quite beneficial if a bunch of friends that choose to lose weight make healthy food choices together, and hold each other accountable to those choices,” she says.

Team members can motivate one another to stay the course. “If someone is doing really well, it could influence the whole group,” Leahey says.

The findings are based on the results of the 2009 Shape Up Rhode Island campaign, a 12-week statewide, online weight loss competition. Participants competed against other teams for weight loss, physical activity, and the number of steps taken. The weight loss arm included 3,330 overweight or obese people on 987 teams. The teams had between five and 11 members.

Two of the study’s co-authors, Rajiv Kumar, MD and Brad M. Weinberg, MD, are co-founders of ShapeUp, Inc.

There Is No ‘I’ in Team

People who lost at least 5% of their body weight, which is an amount that is thought to be significant in improving health, tended to be on the same teams. Those who reported a higher level of social influence by their teammates increased their odds of significant weight loss by 20%. 

“This is really quite powerful,” Leahey tells WebMD. "We were surprised by the magnitude of the effect."

Team captains lost more weight than team members. This may be because they were more motivated and engaged in the contest.

Kevin Sloan is the acting psychology director at Beaumont Weight Control Center in Royal Oak, Mich. The findings mirror what he sees in his practice. “We find that when couples begin their weight loss journey together, they tend to do better. There is a lot of credence to the buddy concept,” he says.

Not everyone is a team player. “It is important to do a self-assessment before signing up, but this a good approach for some people who are joiners and do much better as part of a group,” he says.

Weight Loss Is Contagious

“People do better in a group because of the peer pressure,” says Louis Aronne, MD, founder and director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

And “virtual” weight loss works, too. Groups can get together via the web. “Social support helps people to do better, and there are a variety of ways to accomplish it,” Aronne says.

Still, group dynamics can backfire. "When someone is not doing very well, sometimes that person gets pulled along and sometimes they don’t,” he says.

Today on WebMD

vegetables
Video
Woman trying clothes / dress
Assessment
 
Woman looking at reflection in mirror
Article
Hot cup of coffee
Quiz
 
woman shopping fresh produce
Video
butter curl on knife
Quiz
 
eating out healthy
Article
Smiling woman, red hair
Article
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
thumbnail_woman_tossing_spinach
Video
lunchbox
Article
 
What Girls Need To Know About Eating Disorders
Article
teen squeezing into jeans
fitfor Teens
 

Special Sections