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Aug 01, 2017

Online Program Helps Low-Income Women Lose Weight after Pregnancy

Web-based program helps low-income women achieve their pre-pregnancy weight.

Online support helps low-income women lose weight after pregnancy, based on a recent study that offered an internet-based weight loss intervention through the Women, Infants, and Children program.

Each year, one in four U.S. women experience major weight retention or weight gain after having a baby. Studies suggest that many women retain at least ten pounds in the year after delivery, putting them at increased risk for obesity and other serious conditions. However, low-income minority women are even more likely to retain or gain weight after pregnancy, in part due to limited access to nutritious foods.

To address this issue, researchers offered a weight-loss program to select women participating in the WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Program), which provides food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have young children.

The one-year program included an interactive website, web diaries, educational videos, web-based feedback, text messages and monthly in-person meetings, all of which encouraged women to eat healthy, stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

A total of 371 women participated in the study; more than 80% were Hispanic. Roughly half were assigned to the new weight-loss program, while the other half received standard education offered through WIC.

Study results, which were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that women in the intervention group lost an additional two pounds compared to those receiving standard care. Perhaps most importantly, this difference translated to 14% more women in the intervention group achieving their pre-pregnancy weight than those in the standard care group.

Findings are encouraging, as the weight-loss program helped low-income women lose weight in the year after pregnancy. Authors also note that web-based weight-loss programs tend to cost less and are easier to implement than more intensive types of programs. As a next step, experts hope to determine the cost of incorporating a weight-loss program into the WIC program, as well as the potential health benefits for WIC participants.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a healthy weight for me?
  • 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.
  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

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