The battle against obesity is viewed as an important step toward improved physical and mental well-being as well as a key element for control of future health care costs.
In America, over a third of adults are obese with the condition increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease and shortening the life span.
New research published in the open access journal International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity shows that improving body image can enhance the effectiveness of weight loss programs based on diet and exercise.
Spanish researchers enrolled overweight and obese women on a year-long weight loss program. In the control group, half the women were given general health information about good nutrition, stress management, and the importance of looking after yourself.
The other half attended 30 weekly group sessions (the intervention plan) where issues such as exercise, emotional eating, improving body image and the recognition of, and how to overcome, personal barriers to weight loss and lapses from the diet were discussed.
Among the women who received the intervention, body perception improved as participants were less concerned about their body shape and size.
Women with an improved body image were also better able to self-regulate their eating and lose weight.
This group lost much more weight than the comparison cohort, losing on average 7 percent of their starting weight compared to less than 2 percent for the control group.
Pedro Teixeira, Ph.D., from the Technical University of Lisbon, who led the research, said, “Body image problems are very common amongst overweight and obese people, often leading to comfort eating and more rigid eating patterns, and are obstacles to losing weight.
“Our results showed a strong correlation between improvements in body image, especially in reducing anxiety about other peoples’ opinions, and positive changes in eating behavior.
“From this we believe that learning to relate to your body in healthier ways is an important aspect of maintaining weight loss and should be addressed in every weight control program.”
Source: BioMed Central