Many people who succeed in losing weight struggle to keep it off. Finding solutions to this challenge would help many avoid yo-yo dieting. To identify an effective and affordable method of weight maintenance, researchers from Dunedin, New Zealand, compared the outcomes of two contrasting programs: biweekly weigh-ins with a nurse, plus a phone call on alternating weeks; and a more intensive program that included personal training and group exercise circuit training classes.
Over a 2-year period, investigators followed 200 women aged 25–70 who had lost at least 5% of their weight. The women were randomly assigned to one of the two groups. Each subject then met once with a nutritionist and once with an exercise consultant and was given individualized guidance on diet and physical activity. Participants could communicate with others in their group via a website, and during the second year both groups were invited to attend relaxation and yoga sessions, supermarket tours and diet-specific cooking demonstrations.
For the duration of the study, one group received a nurse’s enthusiastic support at weigh-ins and over the phone. In the other group, subjects were offered 11 one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer and a nutritionist (meetings were staggered over the 24 months) and given the option to attend multiple weekly circuit classes. Attendance at these classes fell off dramatically during the second year.
Participants in both groups maintained their weight loss. Costs of the limited nurse-support program, however, were much lower. Researchers concluded that a nurse-supported weight maintenance program was effective and could be implemented at a fraction of the cost of an intensive-support program.
In a study comment, Robert Ross, PhD, from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, noted, “The feasibility of implementing nurse-coordinated programs within different settings is unclear.” He recommended using exercise specialists and dietitians to give the support since these experts could provide specialized training in exercise and nutrition as well as enthusiasm. An important take-away for fitness professionals is that weekly contact and support, in person and over the telephone, is key to success in helping people maintain healthy weight loss.
The study appeared in the Canadian Medical Association’s journal CMAJ (2009; 180 , E39–46).