Behavior change and self-acceptance trump dieting hands-down when it comes to achieving long-term health improvements in obese women, according to a two-year study by nutrition researchers at the University of California, Davis.
The findings suggest that significant improvements in overall health can be made, regardless of weight loss, when women learn to recognize and follow internal hunger cues and begin feeling better about their size and shape. Results of the study will appear in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
"We have been ingrained to think that seriously large people can only make improvements in their health if they diet and slim down," said nutrition researcher and professor Linda Bacon, who conducted the study along with Judith Stern, a UC Davis professor of nutrition and internal medicine. "But this study tells us that you can make significant improvements in both metabolic and psychological health without ever stepping on the scales or counting calories. You can relax about food and eat what you want."
In summary, while the non-dieters did not lose weight, they succeeded in improving their overall health, as measured by cholesterol levels, blood pressure, physical activity and self-esteem. The dieters, on the other hand, were not able to sustain any of the short-term improvements they experienced and worsened in terms of their self-esteem.
"Given the difficulties most obese people experience in sustaining weight loss, the findings suggest that people are better advised to focus on behavior change than weight to achieve their health goals," said Stern, the researcher who is a UC Davis professor of nutrition and internal medicine.
Pat Bailey | EurekAlert!
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