HEALTH & FITNESS ARTICLES
Weight Loss Management
The traditional approach to weight loss emphasizes cutting calories and increasing activity. Too many of us know the pitfalls of calorie restriction. Many people lose weight over a few weeks or months, but few maintain the weight loss long term or more than one year. A group of researchers from LavalUniversity in Quebec took a different approach to weight loss. Their approach encourages healthy eating behavior, regardless of size, with the long term goal of changing health habits and eating behavior in particular. This is a paradigm shift in thought from a “weight-centered” approach to a “health-centered” approach and “weight acceptance” intervention.
The researchers studied 144 pre-menopausal, obese women: 48 in the health-at-every-size (HAES) group, 48 in the social support (SS) group, and 48 in the control group. The researchers measured eating behaviors, appetite sensations, physical activity, metabolism, and body fat percentage at the beginning of the study, at the end of the intervention period, and 6 months and 1 year after intervention. One year after the intervention, the researchers found that participants in the HAES and SS group ate significantly less food in response to feelings and perception of hunger compared to the control group. In addition after 1 year, participants in the HAES group were significantly less susceptible to disinhibition, or binge eating, than participants in the control group.
Simone Lemieux, RD, PhD, Professor, Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods, LavalUniversity, concluded that the results suggest the HAES approach compared to the control group benefits those struggling with weight management by decreasing susceptibility to hunger and disinhibition. In turn as a secondary benefit, the HAES group achieves better body weight maintenance. The study, however, does not differentiate the effects of the HAES approach and the SS approach.
The LevalUniversity study seems to confirm some hard-learned lessons about calorie counting. Weight loss is as much emotional as it is physical. Long term weight loss is more than simply a matter of measuring calories in and calories out. It is about nourishing each major component of your life. Physical problems are easier to cure when you nurture your spiritual, emotional, and social support systems.
While the results of the LevalUniversity study encourage a holistic and health-centered approach to weight loss, I caution readers against concluding that weight does not matter. In terms of risk for chronic disease, weight matters. Excess weight alters homeostasis in the body. Obesity is not healthy, and I do not believe the researchers encourage long term obesity. The study results discourage unhealthy dieting and calorie restriction, but it certainly encourages positive behavior changes stemming from a well-founded desire to achieve optimum health. Learning to turn off false signs of hunger, avoiding binge-eating situations, and reducing stress are the key behaviors that lead to long term weight management and a long healthy life.
"'Health-At-Every-Size' and Eating Behaviors: One-Year Follow-Up Results of a Size Acceptance Intervention" by Véronique Provencher, RD PhD, Catherine Bégin, PhD, Angelo Tremblay, PhD, Lyne Mongeau, RD PhD, Louise Corneau, RD MSc, Sylvie Dodin, MD MSc, Sonia Boivin, PhD, and Simone Lemieux, RD PhD. It appears in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 109 Issue 11 (November 2009), published by Elsevier.
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