After weight loss, new approach needed for maintenance

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Weight loss and maintenance
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Learning new tactics important for maintaining weight loss

When it comes to weight loss; then keeping the pounds off, two different approaches are needed. Researchers suggest few weight loss programs help dieters transition into the weight maintenance phase that has little in common with weight loss patterns of behavior.

Christopher Sciamanna, M.D. and research colleagues looked at what it takes to lose weight and then beyond to see if behaviors and thought patterns differ during dieting and when trying to maintain weight loss.

"No one announces to a dieter, ‘You’re moving into the weight-maintenance stage. You’ll have to do things differently", says Sciamanna, but that’s exactly what the researchers found.

The study authors write, "Approximately one third of weight lost is regained within 1 year, and the remainder is typically regained within 3 to 5 years." In the study, they found two distinct sets of skills among dieters who keep weight off and those who regain.

Sciamanna, a professor of medicine and public health sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine, suggests it’s important for weight loss programs to guide individuals through both phases, with explicit instructions.

For their study, which appears in the August issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the research team conducted telephonic surveys of 1,165 adults, Weight loss success was defined as shedding 30 pounds and keeping it off for a year.

The participants were asked to identify 36 practices for successful weight loss and maintenance.

The research identified fourteen practices that were associated with weight loss and weight maintenance, but the two did not overlap.

Lawrence Cheskin, M.D., director of the Weight Management Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who did not participate in the study, said,

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“We do often tell patients about the different skills that are needed and the different approaches to take to achieve weight loss and weight maintenance. This work adds substance to that general statement.”

He also explains some people eat only what’s on their diet while others aren’t at all careful.

"Maintenance requires something in between. This research could have implications for what we should emphasize when we are trying to help people lose versus maintain their weight."

Practices linked to successful weight loss include: Joining a weight loss program, researching food labels for nutritional content, finding healthy snacks, limiting sugar in food and drinks, never skip a meal, map out meal plans, think thin, and perform consistent and enjoyable exercises.

The researchers explain to keep weight off: Eat low fat protein from multiple sources, exercise consistently, reward yourself for sticking-to-it, and remind yourself of the benefits of staying thinner.

Sciamanna explains in a phone interview with EmaxHealth that finding ways for self- motivation, such as stepping on the scale daily, looking at old pictures or anything that works on an individual basis can help dieters keep weight off.

He also emphasizes there is no one thing that can ensure weight loss maintenance and that it takes a combination of eating the right foods, exercising, planning and focus, in addition to self-motivation.

Sciamanna adds that recognizing two different approaches are needed for weight loss and then maintenance is an essential finding from the study, which should also be a focus of weight loss programs.

Sciamanna CN, et al.
"Practices associated with weight loss versus weight loss maintenance: results of a national survey"
Am J Prev Med 41(2), 2011.

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