It's a message you often hear around the holidays when treats are plentiful and weight gain looks likely — maintain, don't gain.
But this mantra can be helpful the rest of the year too. Researchers at Duke University worked with overweight and obese African-American women to help them make lifestyle changes to improve their overall health and maintain their body shape.
The goal was not weight loss, as it is with many research efforts. Rather the focus was preventing weight gain. At 12 months, 62 percent of the women had achieved that goal. Even better, at 18 months the average woman was down 3.7 lb (1.7 kg).
Here's some of the advice provided to these women:
- Make gradual changes. Start by making healthier food and beverage choices. For example, replace sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food and high-calorie foods with more fruits and vegetables. Walk 7,000 steps daily.
- Monitor your progress. Check in with someone who will keep you accountable. The research group had weekly phone calls to record their progress and a monthly chat with a dietitian.
- Keep it interesting. Try new ways of tracking food intake, sign up for a nutrition newsletter, or read about healthier lifestyle choices.
Weight loss efforts can be frustrating — leaving some feeling hungry and defeated. The unfortunate reality is that most Americans gain weight every year. Perhaps a change in our focus is needed. Preventing weight gain by making small changes could be the ticket to successful weight management.
Dec. 24, 2014
- Foley, et al. Weight gain prevention among black women in the rural community health center setting: The Shape Program. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/12/305.
BMC Public Health 2012;12:305. Accessed Dec. 22, 2014.
- Bennett GG, et al. Behavioral treatment for weight gain prevention among black women in primary care practice: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2013;173:1770.