Phone Coaching Can Help Promote Modest Weight Loss

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Many Americans rarely leave home without their phones, and that could come in handy for those attempting to lose weight, according to a new study.

"Since so many people use cell phones and gas prices were getting higher, we thought, 'How well can we reach people, and how well can we reach people if it's not face to face?'" said Larry Tucker, Ph.D., the study's lead author.

Tucker and colleagues at Brigham Young University found that of 120 men and women who received 11 sessions of personalized weight-loss phone coaching over a 17-week period lost an average of seven pounds, compared with an average of four pounds in un-coached adults. The sessions lasted 30 minutes.

The study appears in the November/December issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

"People tend to do better when they have a support system and when they have someone they report to each week. The weight loss coach can help people work through weight loss issues, barriers and problems," Tucker said. "Compared to no coaching, phone coaching tends to show a benefit."

Adding daily weight-loss supplements designed to decrease appetite and increase metabolism also produced weight loss, the authors found. Daily supplement users lost about 6.8 pounds, compared with only about four pounds in placebo users.


The greatest total weight and body fat loss — about 9.7 pounds overall and 5 pounds of fat — occurred in adults who received both coaching and took the daily supplement.

The authors disclosed that TriVita, Inc., the company that manufactures the weight-loss supplement, provided funding to the study through a research grant.

"Over time, a person is going to have to learn a new lifestyle, but I think this particular supplement may be of value to help a person while they're transitioning into that new lifestyle," Tucker said.

However, the study may leave readers with more questions than answers, said Robert Jeffery, Ph.D., director of the Obesity Prevention Center at the University of Minnesota.

"You couldn't tell by reading the study what the coaches were talking about. They talked to participants 11 times, but it doesn't say what they told people to do," Jeffery said.

And although this study found that participants dropped pounds, it may not compare to traditional weight-loss programs.

"In a state-of-the-art, face-to-face weight loss intervention, you should be able to get an eight- to 10-kilogram (17.5 to 22 pounds) weight loss in that same time period," Jeffery said.


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