Weight Woes: Is lifestyle change the answer?

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
March 3, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Obesity is an epidemic in this country, and diets and diet book writers are taking advantage it. But diets are not the answer, says this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. The answer may be some simple lifestyle changes.Dr. Jay Adlersberg is On Call with the story.

Robert Sanders has battled a weight problem for years. He recently enrolled in the largest study of its kind analyzing how to lose weight and, more importantly, how to keep it off.

Dr. Laura Svetkey with Duke University Medical Center is part of a team of researchers who studied about a thousand overweight and obese adults.

"We talked about making changes in your lifestyle that you could sustain for your life," says Dr. Svetkey.

Participants made lifestyle changes such as reducing daily calories, increasing moderate exercise, eating a well-balanced diet and keeping track of calories and activity. Some received monthly motivational calls during the maintenance phase, others were asked to log on to an interactive web site where they received similar support.

"After two and a half years of this maintenance phase, about seventy percent weighed less than they had at the very beginning of the study," Svetkey says," and that percent was higher for the group who had got the personal counseling."

while the intervention did offer some help in keeping weight off, the effect was modest. Researchers found those who were most successful were the people who kept going back to the lifestyle changes introduced at the beginning of the study. That's the way to approach weight loss, they say: Change your lifestyle don't go on a diet.

Robert says after trying several diets and always gaining the weight back he finally gets it. He lost twenty-five pounds in about six months and has only gained one pound back.

"My lifestyle change has really, has enabled me to sustain this weight," Sanders says, "and I'm never going back. I will never gain the weight back I had before."

By eating healthy, watching calories and exercising, all participants were able to lose about twenty pounds during the initial six month weight loss program. If they stuck with those lifestyle changes, most were able to maintain much of their weight loss.

  • More on the Story: Weight Loss Information from the National Library of Medicine