Church-Based Weight Loss Programs Are Effective  Between the New Year and Super Bowl weekend, many people at this time of year resolve to better manage their weight and have a more healthy 2012.

In a new study, investigators determined that the location of the program, and the level of experience attempting a weight loss program, may influence an individual’s success.

In the study, published in The Journal of Black Psychology, researchers determined African-American women beginning a new group weight loss program are more successful if they are less experienced with weight management and if the program meets in a church.

Researchers Tracy Sbrocco, Robyn Osborn, Robert D. Clark, Chiao-Wen Hsiao, and Michele M. Carter studied 55 African American women, ages 18 to 55, involved in a 13-week weight-management program designed to promote long-term diet and exercise practices that produce moderate but lasting weight loss.

Of these 55 women, 19 met together in a church and 36 met at a medical school in the area. All participants were weighed and had physical fitness tests at pre- and post-treatment.

After 13 weeks, the researchers found that the women meeting in the church setting lost a greater percentage of weight than those who met at the university. And those women who set out to change their eating and exercise practices for the first time lost a greater percentage of weight than women who had experience managing their weight.

While the success of the church-based program is understandable, the discovery that women who had attempted to lose weight were less likely to be successful is puzzling.

The authors provided possible explanations for their findings by stating that women with weight-loss experience may find it more difficult to lose weight when starting a new program because they are less likely to seek and accept social support for their efforts and are unable to shake bad habits learned in past weight-loss programs.

Researchers believe church-based programs provide a familiar environment that are conducive to lending encouragement and support.

“Church-based groups have a built-in social support system that allows members to see each other, check in, and follow up on behavior changes,” the authors said. “Whereas individuals who attended the university often rushed into groups as they began and left as soon as the groups ended, individuals in the church setting were more likely to linger before and after group times.”

Source: Sage