Learning How to Keep Pounds Off Before Dieting May Work Best

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Women who first learn how to maintain their weight regain fewer of the pounds they shed in a weight-loss program, a new study suggests.

The study included 267 overweight/obese women who were assigned to two groups. One group spent eight weeks learning how to maintain their weight and then began a 20-week weight-loss program that emphasized greater consumption of vegetables and fruits, increased physical activity and the use of proven dieting strategies, such as keeping daily food records.

Women in the control group did the opposite, first doing the weight-loss program, and then learning how to maintain their weight.

Initially, both groups of women lost a similar amount of weight, an average of about 17 pounds (9 percent) of their starting weight. The women were then on their own for one year. At the end of that time, the researchers checked the women's weights.

The women in the maintenance-first group regained an average of three pounds and those in the control group regained seven pounds, according to the Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.

They also found that 33 percent of the women in the maintenance-first group and 18 percent of those in the control displayed a "favorable pattern" -- that is, losing at least 5 percent of their body weight without regaining more than five pounds during the follow-up year.

The findings, published online Oct. 31 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, suggest that learning about weight maintenance first may help reduce the chances of yo-yo dieting, the researchers said.

"Those eight weeks were like a practice run. Women could try out different stability skills and work out the kinks without the pressure of worrying about how much weight they had lost," study author Michaela Kiernan, a senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in a university news release.

"We found that waiting those eight weeks didn't make the women any less successful at losing weight. But even better, women who practiced stability first were more successful in maintaining that loss after a year," she noted.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about healthy weight.

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, Oct. 30, 2012

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