Can you lose excess weight and keep it off over the long term? A team of University of Hawaii psychologists recently completed a study and concluded it can be done.
Ninety overweight participants from different community organizations in Honolulu were brought together to meet in groups of 10.
Over a six-month period, participants learned behavioral therapy skills to develop and maintain healthy eating behaviors and physical activity.
“(The keys were) keeping track of their food intake, making healthier food choices, working physical activity into their busy routine and working together as a community as a group to achieve their goals,” explained UH Manoa psychologist Dr. Janet Latner.
After six months, participants lost between 10 and 20 pounds and saw improvements in physical and mental health.
But then random groups were either asked to continue meeting regularly on their own or not asked to continue meeting. A follow-up meeting 18 months later was the surprising result.
“We thought that the people who would keep meeting would do better. It turns out that the overwhelming majority of people in both groups reported meeting after the study ended suggest the power of communities and the bond that they felt,” said Latner.
Both groups showed similar outcomes in improved changes in weight, eating and physical activity. And many chose to meet on their own, even if asked not to.
“In fact, both groups did quite well, so it suggests our original hypothesis that people would do well if they kept on meeting and supporting each other,” said Latner.
Dr. Latner suggests a support group of family and friends can be just as effective as a community-based organization.
So although there is no quick fix to weight loss, a lifelong commitment to healthier living is possible with some effort and made easier with encouragement from those around you.
The study appears in the August issue of Behaviour Research and Therapy.