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.