FRIDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Many dieters feel jubilant
when they reach their weight goal, only to find that the pounds
somehow return after that.
New research may help explain why that is so: The behaviors that
help people lose weight don't overlap much with those that help
them maintain their new shape, according to scientists from Penn
The team investigated whether two distinct sets of thought
patterns and behaviors were associated with weight loss, defined as
losing 10 percent of your body weight in a year, and weight-loss
maintenance, keeping that 10 percent loss off for a year.
Using a random phone survey of 1,165 adults, they found that
there was little agreement between the two. Those who used a
consistent exercise routine or ate plenty of low-fat sources of
protein were more likely to report weight-loss maintenance, not
weight loss. And those who reported doing different kinds of
exercises or planning meals ahead of time, for example, were more
likely to report weight loss but not weight-loss maintenance.
Therefore, the researchers concluded, diet programs may need to
guide participants differently to handle each specific phase.
"They started an important discussion that probably should have occurred earlier," said Alice H. Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition at the USDA Human Nutrition Center at Tufts University in Boston. "I think they address an important point -- whether more emphasis should be given to stabilizing weight loss than is currently given."
"When you're losing weight, it's kind of exciting. All of these neat changes are happening," added Beth Kitchin, an assistant professor of nutrition sciences at University of Alabama at Birmingham. "When we get to where we want to maintain, the mindset changes. Some struggle with adding more calories back in, and learning how to eat foods that may not have been on their diet plan."
According to study author Dr. Christopher Sciamanna, his group
created the basis for their survey by recruiting and interviewing
people who were successful in their weight-loss maintenance, which
was defined as losing at least 30 pounds and keeping it off for at
least a year.
The adults surveyed by phone were then asked about 36 strategies
they might think about and do to accomplish losing the pounds and
keeping them off.
Fourteen of the strategies were associated with either
successful weight loss or successful maintenance, but not both, and
the overlap between practices was not much higher than expected by
chance, the study said.
The researchers found that strategies associated only with
weight loss included participating in a diet program; looking for
information about weight loss, nutrition or exercise; limiting
sugar intake; planning meals beforehand; avoiding skipped meals;
and thinking about how much better you feel when you are
Strategies associated only with weight-loss maintenance included
eating plenty of low-fat protein; following a consistent exercise
routine; rewarding yourself for sticking to your eating plan; and
reminding yourself why you need to control your weight.
The study is published online July 5 and in the August print
issue of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Kitchin noted that the study did not prove a cause-and-effect
relationship between the practices and weight loss or maintenance,
though she praised the research as "a novel way of looking at
"We definitely need more research to look at the different methods used by people who lost weight," she said. "We need to look at different strategies to see what works over the long run. We spend so much time talking about weight loss and don't really focus on weight maintenance."
Lichtenstein, also director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab
at Tufts and a member of the nutrition committee of the American
Heart Association, said the study offered useful information but
didn't determine which behaviors will benefit individual
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases has a wealth of information on
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