Losing weight can be a struggle. But keeping it off can feel like a losing battle. Now a new study suggests that monthly personal counseling—usually less than 15 minutes by phone—can help. A web-based program also helped some people keep lost pounds at bay.
Excess weight is the nation’s second-leading cause of preventable death. Extra pounds can lead to diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure—all risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Weight loss can reduce these risks, but keeping that lost weight off is rarely easy.
NIH-funded researchers compared the success rates of 3 relatively low-cost approaches to maintaining weight loss. They studied over 1,000 adults who had lost an average of about 19 pounds. Each person was randomly assigned to take 1 of 3 approaches to maintaining their weight loss.
One group had monthly personal counseling on diet and physical activity. People in the second group used an interactive web-based program that provided similar information. Those in the third group—the “self-directed maintenance” group—were mostly left on their own.
By the end of the 2.5-year study, people who had personal counseling still had an average weight loss of 9.2 pounds. The web group kept off an average of 7.3 pounds, and the self-directed group 6.4 pounds.
“Most people in the study regained at least some of the weight they initially lost,” says lead scientist Dr. Laura Svetkey of Duke University. “However, both the personal counseling and the web-based program modestly alleviated weight re-gain for up to 2 years. Personal counseling ultimately proved to be the most beneficial by the end of the 2.5-year study.”
Even minor weight loss can have significant health benefits, the researchers say.