For Long-Term Weight Loss, Get Educated, Eat Right, Exercise—and Keep a Diary
July 17, 2008—A new study has shown that education, combined with healthy behaviors such as eating fruits and vegetables each day, exercising, and keeping a food diary, are key ingredients for maintaining weight loss. While it is well known that such behaviors can help a heavy person lose weight, few large studies have looked at behavioral interventions for keeping weight off, which is critical for overweight people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Healthy habits are key
The study, known as the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial, compared various strategies for maintaining weight loss over a 30-month period. All 1,684 participants were 25 years or older and were overweight or obese and taking medication for high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol. Each participant was encouraged to attend 20 weekly group educational sessions, restrict calories, use a daily food diary, exercise daily at a moderate to intense level, and follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, and limits saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
After two and a half years, people who lost the most weight (18.7 pounds [8.5 kg] or more) had, on average, attended more weekly educational sessions (15), exercised more (159 minutes per week), kept more food diary records (4.2 records per week), and eaten more fruits and vegetables (3.6 servings per day).
“A combined emphasis on dietary intake and physical activity is important to both short- and long-term weight loss goals,” said the study’s author, Jack Hollis, PhD, from the Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, Oregon. “Behavioral strategies to modify these health behaviors are important components of weight-loss interventions because they emphasize the individual’s ability to monitor and regulate behavior, and target the barriers to both initial weight loss and long-term maintenance.”
Smart slimming strategies
People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are at high risk for cardiovascular diseases such as stroke or heart attack, but weight control can help prevent and treat these conditions. There is no quick fix for losing weight or maintaining weight loss. If you are overweight, start by eating right, exercising, keeping stress in check and seeing your doctor.
Here are some tips for losing weight and keeping it off:
• Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables based on recommendations from your healthcare provider. Limit saturated fat and sugar and avoid “empty” calories that provide little or no nutrition such as some processed foods, snacks, and beverages.
• Get enough exercise. A report from the Institute of Medicine suggests that adults need 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day in order to optimize health and prevent disease; children need a minimum of 90 minutes.
• Keep a diary to track your daily food and calorie intake and help you learn how to identify eating patterns and make healthy choices throughout the day.
• Join a support group for health lifestyle behaviors or share the experience with friends and family, which can help improve your chances for success.
(Am J Prev Med 2008;35:118–26)
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
Copyright © 2008 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. HEALTHNOTES and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.