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Study offers new way to diet: Just don’t gain

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STUDY – If you’ve tried to drop more than a few pounds and are disappointed when the scale won’t budge, a surprising new study may help you feel better.

Researchers from Duke University found that by focusing on not gaining weight, rather than losing, people are more likely to stay committed to a long-term plan and avoid the dreaded “weight creep” — that is, gaining one or two pounds a year.

Weight creep is part of what causes someone to go beyond simply being overweight or early obesity to more serious medical obesity and increased health risks.

Duke researchers targeted 194 premenopausal African-American women who were overweight, or Class 1 obese — that is, with a body mass index between 25 and 34.9. African-American women historically have had even less weight-loss success than other groups, including African-American men, and Caucasian men and women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80 percent of black women are considered overweight or obese, compared to the incidence in white women of around 60 percent.

Their average age was 35.4 years (range between 24 – 44 years), with an average BMI of 30.2 (range between 25 and 34.9 and an average weight of 179 pounds).

Participants were told this was NOT a weight loss study, and that their goal was lifestyle change to improve their overall well being and to maintain their current body shape.

The thinking was, if new strategies could help black women who were overweight or class 1 obese stabilize their weight, then the plan could be a long-term, scalable and economic way to battle the obesity epidemic.

Using the “Shape” intervention plan, a one-year evidence-based treatment program, participants made improved food choices, trimmed less than 200 calories a day (weight-loss programs typically aim for 500-1000 fewer calories per day), boosted daily activity, and participated in a variety of self-monitoring activities.

While the study documents a new strategy for early weight-control intervention, it’s still up to individuals to want to take charge of their weight — and want it enough to stop the “creep.”