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Aug 01, 2012

Tailored Weight Loss Intervention

The more weight loss programming available, the better equipped we are to combat obesity.

With 2/3 of American adults overweight or obese, effective weight loss interventions are in high demand. We know that carrying extra weight can increases risk for heart disease, yet small reductions in weight – even a 5-10% weight loss – can improve our health. But finding effective programming that helps individuals lose weight and keep it off are not only hard to come by but expensive as well. Fortunately, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that tailored weight loss interventions may just as effective as standard treatment and could save money, too.

Over 360 overweight and obese adults participated in this study, roughly half of whom were assigned to standard weight loss programming. This standard intervention was most intensive in the first few weeks of treatment, and became less rigorous over time. The other half of individuals participated in a tailored weight loss program implementing a “stepped-care” approach, meaning that the program started out with low intensity and was adjusted over time according to weight loss. For example, for those in the stepped-care approach, if an individual did not meet their weight loss goals by month 3, the intensity of the program would be increased to help motivate them more. Both programs offered periodic group counseling session and promoted a low-calorie diet and increased physical activity. After following both groups of participants for a year and a half, they found that both programs achieved similar weight loss, yet the tailored program cost nearly half of what the standard program cost.

Although adults in the standard weight loss program lost slightly more weight than those in the tailored program, using a stepped-care approach could serve as a good model in the future for weight loss programming. One of the biggest problems with weight loss programming is that it requires a lot of time and money, and is not always successful in the long run. The hope is that by identifying more innovative and affordable programs like the stepped-care weight loss program, more organizations will be able to offer them to the public. And the more weight loss programming available, the better equipped we are to combat obesity and improve the health of America.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a healthy weight?

  • A few important tools can be used to determine if an individual is underweight, normal weight or overweight. The easiest tool is a Body Mass Index, which is calculated using height and weight to estimate levels of body fat. However, Body Mass Index is not always accurate, particularly among individuals with extremely high or low amounts of muscle. In these cases, measuring waist circumference is helpful in assessing weight, as a waist circumference greater than 35 inches for a woman or 40 inches for a man is considered unhealthy.
  • Why does tailored weight loss programming cost less than standard programming?

  • In this case, the tailored weight loss programming started out low-intensity and was adjusted according to the success of each participant. Naturally, some patients are more able and motivated to follow guidelines, such as a low-calorie diet and increased exercise, so they don’t need too much support. Others, however, who struggle with these lifestyle changes, may need more support to reach their weight loss goals. By providing the added support only to those who need it, this model can save both time and money yet achieve similar results as standard weight loss programming.

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