Keeping the Weight Off Is The Real Challenge

A new study shows that a low-cost, non-profit weight loss program offers the kind of long-term results that often elude dieters.

“We know that people lose weight and then gain it back,” said study author Nia S. Mitchell, M.D., M.P.H., a researcher with the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado. “In this case, we found that people who renewed their annual membership in the program lost a clinically significant amount of weight and kept it off.”

“Clinically significant” weight loss is defined as losing 5 percent or more of one’s body weight, because weight-related medical conditions, such as diabetes, can improve with that level of weight loss, she explained.

Mitchell’s study focused on Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), a weight loss program led by volunteers and costing $92 a year (a $32 annual fee plus local chapter dues averaging about $5 a month.)

The study, which included about 75,000 participants, focused on those who renewed their annual memberships consecutively for up to seven years. Mitchell found that 50 percent of them had clinically significant weight loss in their first year in TOPS, and 62 percent of those who stayed with the program maintained that after seven years.

Unlike many commercial and academic programs, there is a minimal difference between the weight-loss and weight-maintenance phases of the TOPS program, reinforcing weight management behaviors, according to Mitchell.

“Despite decades of obesity research, two issues remain elusive in weight management: Significant, long-term weight-loss maintenance and widely accessible programs,” she said. “To reverse this epidemic we need to find programs that are effective at weight loss and maintenance, low-cost, and easy to implement and disseminate widely.”

According to Mitchell, TOPS appears to provide effective weight loss, weight loss maintenance and affordability, which can be especially important to low-income, minority and rural populations that may not have access to a structured weight loss program.

“As long-term weight loss is difficult to achieve in any clinical circumstance, TOPS may be a viable option to treat those who are overweight or obese,” she said.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Source: University of Colorado Denver