Studies say 'diet buddy system' improves weight-loss success

Published: Dec. 6, 2017 at 7:06 PM EST
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You are out to dinner with friends. There is a box of donuts in the lunchroom. Your coworkers bring out cake for a birthday celebration.

There is no doubt sometimes peers can seriously derail our best diet intentions. But, researchers say the opposite is also true. When it comes to losing weight, peer pressure can whittle your waistline.

For 55-year-old Dan Collins, fencing keeps his muscles tight, his body trim, and his eating habits on point. Dan has not always been fit.

"I was the fat kid," he says. "Last kid picked for dodgeball when I was in elementary school."

By the time he graduated college, Dan weighed 239 pounds. For Dan, the pressure of weekly weigh-ins started him in the right direction.

"I had the fear of the white lab coat," he says. "A doctor going to be peering over my shoulder, moving the little scale thing along and me worried about 'did I lose anything? Did I gain anything?'"

Dr. Marc Leavey from the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore has worked with obese patients throughout his 40-year career. He is a big believer in positive peer pressure or the diet buddy system.

"If I can get a husband and wife to diet together, exercise together, it’s almost always more effective," Leavey says.

Studies from Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University show partnering with someone who is serious about slimming down increases your chances. If you feel tempted to cheat, you should phone or text a friend for support. Delay the treat for 15 minutes. You may erase the craving.

For Dan, having his doctor hold him accountable has worked. His blood pressure is normal, down from a high of 150/90. And he has maintained a 60-pound weight loss for 30 years.

"I’ve changed my relationship with food, and now we get along together a lot better," he says.

Doctor Leavey also suggests weight loss partners help each other stick to the numbers needed to drop weight. To lose a pound a week, cut back by 500 calories a day, increase exercise to burn 500 additional calories, or by doing a combination of both.


REPORT #2483

BACKGROUND: Obesity can result from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including individual behaviors and genetics. Behaviors can include dietary patterns, physical activity, inactivity, medication use, and other exposures. Additional factors in our society include the food and physical activity environment, education and skills, and food marketing and promotion. More than one third of adults in the United States have obesity. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008. The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6–19) has obesity. Obesity is a serious concern because it is associated with poorer mental health outcomes, reduced quality of life, and the leading causes of death worldwide.





CAUSES AND TREATMENTS: The balance between calorie intake and expending energy determines a person's weight. If a person eats more calories than he or she burns, the person gains weight. If a person eats fewer calories than he or she burns, the person will lose weight. Therefore, the most common causes of obesity are overeating and physical inactivity. All too often, obesity prompts a strict diet in the hopes of reaching the "ideal body weight." Most people who lose weight regain the weight within five years. It is clear that a more effective, long-lasting treatment for obesity must be found. Researchers need to learn more about the causes of obesity, and then change the ways it is treated. When obesity is accepted as a chronic disease, it will be treated like other chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Methods of treatment right for each individual depends on the level of obesity, overall health and willingness to participate. The most common treatments today are dietary changes, exercise and activity, behavior change, prescription weight-loss medications, and weight-loss surgery.




NEW TEST FOR NUTRITION: Scientists in the United Kingdom have created a five-minute test that can measure biological markers in urine that are created when certain foods are broken down. It’s a finding that could pave the way to better diet plans. This new test could specify exactly what foods are eaten, like red meats, veggies, chicken and fish, for example, as well as measure the amount of fat, sugar, and fiber consumed. There’s still more research to do, but it is a promising development that could be worked into weight-loss programs and help better inform doctors about the eating habits of a patient. Professor Gary Frost, senior author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial says, “A major weakness in all nutrition and diet studies is that we have no true measure of what people eat. We rely solely on people keeping logs of their daily diets. This test could be the first independent indicator of the quality of a person’s diet and what they are really eating.”