Yale researcher finds pattern in maintaining weight loss

07/29/04

New Haven, Conn. -- Eighteen women who maintained a weight loss of 15 to 144 pounds for at least one year and as long as 27 years followed similar patterns leading to consistent behavior change, according to a study published in the Nursing Science Quarterly.

Diane Berry, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale School of Nursing, interviewed 20 women in the study. Seventeen of the women were enrolled in two popular weight loss programs.

Eighteen of the women had lost 10 percent of their body weight and maintained that weight loss for at least one year. Berry included in her study two women who were unable to maintain weight loss as contrasting cases. These two women, as well as one woman who kept the weight off, were not enrolled in a weight loss support program. Berry said she found six similar patterns among the women who were successful.

In pattern one, before losing weight, the women were self-conscious, vulnerable, and unaware of events that contributed to their weight gain. Pattern two revealed recognition of a problem, a readiness to take action, and a decision to make a change. "In the third pattern," Berry said, "women took control and actively engaged in behavior change."

In patterns four to six, the women incorporated new behaviors, used some type of support system to reinforce the behavior change, and, finally, experienced increased confidence, self-esteem, and control of their lives.

"Participants moved fluidly through one pattern to the next and many times fell back to a previous pattern before moving on," Berry said. "Once participants moved to the sixth pattern, they were able to maintain weight loss."

In addition to membership in a weight loss support program, all of the women who maintained their weight loss had incorporated exercise into their lifestyles.

"The women who maintained their weight loss were more aware of their trigger foods and portion sizes, and they all exercised regularly," Berry said. "They also recognized it is something they will have to work at for the rest of their lives."

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