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Losing Weight is More Effective in Group Settings, Study Finds

Update Date: Oct 16, 2013 09:28 AM EDT

Even though recent statistics have revealed that the obesity epidemic has stalled in the United States, roughly 78 million Americans are clinically obese. For these people who want to lose weight, a new study is reporting that going at it alone might be ineffective. This study, funded from a Weight Watchers International grant, found that people who dieted in a group setting, particularly those who joined Weight Watchers, were more likely to lose weight than people who tried losing weight on their own.

This study, which was carried out by weight management experts from Baylor College of Medicine, followed a group of 292 overweight and obese participants from the Danbury, CT area. Half of the participants were assigned to Weight Watchers at no cost and the other half was dubbed the "go-it-alone" group and was provided with printed materials. Weight Watchers provides its customers with dietary information, exercise guidelines and education about healthy and safe weight loss. It uses three main tools that include face-to-face meetings, an interactive website and a mobile app. The study lasted six months.

Based on the data, the researchers calculated that people in the Weight Watchers group were eight times more like to lose five percent of their body weight in half a year than people in the go-it-alone group. The researchers also found that the Weight Watchers group was 8.8 times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight when compared to the other group. The Weight Watchers group ended up losing an average of 10.1 pounds whereas the go-it-alone group lost an average of 1.3 pounds. The researchers found that the most important contributor to weight loss was attendance. People who participated in discussions that were headed by Weight Watchers' alumni generally lost more weight than others within the same group.

"It's one of the harder changes people make in their lives, to lose weight, and we're social animals," the lead author of the study, psychologist Craig A. Johnston said according to the Los Angeles Times. "Being around people who can encourage and reinforce you - people who are talking about that challenge - is going to help in terms of weight loss."

The study's findings suggest that in order to lose weight effectively, people need a combination of weight loss methods. Weight Watchers was able to provide these tools, such as meetings, information and advice that led to good weight loss. The researchers also reported that people who utilized all three services from Weight Watchers during the six-month period lost an average of 19 pounds. People who used one service lost an average of 9.3 pounds and people who used two services lost an average of 9.5 pounds.

The study was published in the American Journal of Medicine.

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