The Best Way to Lose Weight: Strength in Numbers

How bad is the obesity epidemic that’s sweeping the nation? So bad that obesity is quickly replacing tobacco as the biggest cause of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In light of these alarming facts, losing weight is more important that ever.  Luckily, you don’t have to navigate your weight-loss journey on your own—in fact it’s better if you don’t.

A recent study showed that Weight Watcher’s helped people lose twice as much weight as those following standard weight-loss advice. The Reader’s Digest book What Works What Doesn’t explains the reason behind these results: Studies show that having support enhances self-control and self-esteem and provides motivation to keep going strong.

Weight-loss groups help people lose more weight.

The studies are unequivocal: People who attend support groups as part of a comprehensive weight-loss program lose more weight than those who go it alone. Some things are hard to do alone. Riding a seesaw is one of them, and so is losing weight. That’s not surprising, considering how difficult it can be to cut calories and stay motivated enough to keep doing it, day in and day out. Having some help works.

In one study of nearly 50,000 postmenopausal women, one group was given educational materials with specific advice about how to cut calories by eating less fat and more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The other group participated in 18 individual or group sessions during which they received the same advice—plus support and encouragement. Guess which group lost more weight? That’s right. The women who attended the meetings lost an average of five pounds during the first year, about four pounds more than the other group.

The more meetings you attend, the better your results. Researchers at New York Obesity Research Center found that among 423 men and women, those who participated in a commercial weight-loss program with group support lost more weight during the first year (10 pounds compared to 3 pounds) and dropped more inches than those who lost weight without participating in a program. Another study found an association between attendance at group meetings during the year following weight-loss surgery and the amount of weight lost. Want help from the comfort of your living room? Internet-based support is effective, too.

Having a weight-loss buddy helps

Get a group of friends together who also want to slim down, and not only are you more likely to lose weight, but you also have a better chance of keeping it off.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recruited 166 people to participate in a weight-loss program either alone or with three friends or family members. Among those who embarked on the program with friends, 95 percent completed the program compared to only 76 percent of those who dieted solo. After 10 months, 66 percent of the group dieters had maintained their weight loss compared to only 24 percent of those who were on their own.

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