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Good News for Keeping Pounds Off

Losing weight can be a challenge but keeping the pounds off after weight loss can be even more difficult. So new research suggesting that it is equally possible to prevent weight gain when people lose weight nonsurgically through healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as nutrition and exercise, or through more extreme measures such as surgical stapling of the stomach (bariatric surgery), is good news.

Little research exists on which form of weight loss is easier to maintain. A recent study looked at how both surgical and nonsurgical weight losers fare when trying to keep the weight off.

It’s possible to stay the course

Despite the challenges, many people are able to lose weight and keep it off. The National Weight Loss Registry keeps track of people who have lost weight and successfully prevented weight regain. Participants in the registry have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept 30 pounds or more off for at least a year. A recent study compared the weight loss maintenance results of 315 people enrolled in the registry from the time of registry to one year. Among those 315 participants, 105 had achieved weight loss through surgical means and 210 through nonsurgical means. All had lost an average of 123 pounds and kept at least 30 pounds off for an average of 5.5 years.

Results showed that it’s possible for people who have lost weight through both surgical and nonsurgical means to equally maintain their weight loss over the course of one year, but people who lost weight by changing lifestyle required more intensive behavior efforts to prevent weight regain.

Although the surgery patients required less work to keep the pounds off, they felt worse and reported engaging in less physical activity, eating more fast food and high fat foods, and having higher levels of stress and depression than the nonsurgical participants at the time of entry and at one year. This finding suggests that it may be worth the extra effort to try and lose weight through lifestyle behavior changes which are also critically important for preventing disease and optimizing a person’s health.

Dale Bond, PhD, lead author of the study from the Weight Control and Diabetes Center at Brown Alpert Medical School, Providence, Rhode Island, comments, “Regardless of whether patients initially achieved weight loss through bariatric surgery or nonsurgical methods, intensive behavioral efforts with respect to diet and physical activity are important for successful long-term weight loss maintenance.”

Tips for keeping weight off

In order to achieve lasting success, seek the help of a physician, nutritionist, and/or weight loss expert who can help you tailor a weight loss and weight loss maintenance program based on your specific health conditions and lifestyle. Seek support from friends and family members to keep you motivated and on track. Always check with your physician before beginning a new diet or exercise program. Dr. Bond shares these general recommendations to keep pounds off and prevent weight gain:

• Move to lose pounds: Accumulate at least 150 to 250 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.

• Follow a healthy diet: Consume a low-fat (less than 30% of daily caloric intake), low-calorie (1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for people who weigh less than 200 lb and 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for individuals who weigh more than 200 lb) diet.

• Identify triggers for overeating: Identify and manage or avoid cues that trigger overeating. Dr. Bond notes that people who are susceptible to cues for overeating are more likely to regain weight.

(Int J Obes 2009;33:173–80)

Jane Hart, MD

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