Updated 02 August 2017

Tired of the ups and downs of yo-yo dieting?

'Coaching' sessions can help you keep the weight from creeping back after a diet, a new study found.

Anyone who has been on a diet knows that the real challenge comes later, when you've got to fight tooth and nail to keep from regaining the lost weight.

Now, a new trial finds that regular "diet coaching" may help keep the weight off.

According to Dr Ingrid van Heerden, Health24's former DietDoc, yo-yo dieting has negative effects on future weight loss and can lead to weight gain, not weight loss. Changes in one's Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) as a result of this kind of weight loss/weight gain pattern can result in people not only regaining all the weight they lost, but also gaining even more weight. 

'Diet coaching'

According to Health24's dietitians, weight-loss occurs when a kilojoule-deficit is created, this means that in order for you to lose weight, you need to eat less than your body needs.

When losing weight it is important to concentrate on portion size. Click on here to read all about portion sizes.  

People were more likely to maintain successful weight loss if they took part in a series of post-diet coaching sessions conducted mostly by phone, said study author Corrine Voils. She is scientific director of the Wisconsin Surgical Outcomes Research Programme at the University of Wisconsin.

Coaching teaches behavioural skills

Dieters who received coaching had only regained about a pound and half, on average, a year after their initial weight loss, Voils said. Successful dieters who received no follow-up coaching regained about 2.3kg.

Typically, most people tend to regain weight at a rate of about 1–2kg a year, the study authors said in background notes.

"The programme did slow the rate of regain over that period," Voils said.

Previous research has shown that people who are taught specific behavioural skills can better maintain weight loss, Voils said.

For this study, Voils and her colleagues combined several of those skills and regularly reinforced them with successful dieters during a 42-week period.

After 42 weeks, patients were left alone for 14 weeks and then weighed again to see whether they'd experienced any weight gain.

The participants were 222 patients at VA clinics in North Carolina who lost an average of 7kg as part of a structured weight-loss programme.

Following their weight loss, these folks were randomly assigned to receive regular coaching from dietitians or were left to their own devices.

The coaching included a few group visits at first, but quickly transitioned into regular phone calls, Voils said.

"We started out with biweekly contacts, and then decreased to monthly and then to every two months," she said.

Weight loss

Weight-loss maintenance 

The coaching hit on four major themes for weight-loss maintenance, Voils said.

The first involved weighing oneself regularly to identify any sudden weight gain. Patients were told to react if they noticed that they'd put back on 1.4kg.

"Once you regain 1.4kg, this means that you're on a trajectory to regain weight. You need to go back to your weight-loss effort," Voils said. "It's easier to recuperate from a small slip than it is from a 10kg slip."

Participants were also encouraged to:

  • Plan for situations where they might slip into old eating habits, such as holidays, travel, parties or church buffets.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help them maintain healthy habits that would keep weight off.
  • Make a list of the personal benefits from weight loss they'd experienced, as a way to keep them motivated.

Many weight-loss programmes feature one or more of these strategies, but they are rarely combined and usually are emphasised during the initial weight-loss period, not as a part of long-term maintenance, Voils said.

Low cost solution 

Voils said the programme was low-cost – about $276 (±R3 635) per participant for 56 weeks – which makes it a fairly inexpensive way to help people stay healthy and fit following a weight-loss programme.

"There could be a distinct phase after initial weight loss where this could benefit," Voils said. "There's accountability by somebody calling you regularly."

Dr Donald Hensrud, editor of "The Mayo Clinic Diet," said the study "demonstrates that some follow-up in this period through telephone calls could be beneficial".

This proves that people who are attempting to lose weight respond well to interest and support from others. 

Read More:

Eat the rainbow? Here’s how…

A healthy diet for older people

Diabetes: Mediterranean diet best


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