Staying slim -- or at least the same weight -- is not easy. The key might be making it personal.
Researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, found that a one-year lifestyle intervention helped rural women prevent weight gain.
Catherine Lombard, PhD, led the study of more than 600 Australian rural women. Dr. Lombard is a dietitian and head of Healthy Lifestyle Research at the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation.
As people get older, their body weight tends to increase. The rate of gain is typically less than three pounds a year, which means minor lifestyle changes could prevent weight gain.
Prevention of obesity is easier than weight loss once a person has become obese, Dr. Lombard and her team note in the report. Their study was designed to test that theory with a series of low-intensity interventions.
Dr. Lombard and colleagues randomly assigned women living in 41 Australian towns to two groups.
The women averaged 40 years of age and the average body mass index (BMI) was 28.8. BMI is a measurement of body fat in comparison to height. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal weight.
The women in the first group of towns received a one-year self-management lifestyle intervention. The intervention included a group information session, a personalized program manual, monthly text reminder messages and a 20-minute personal coaching session by phone.
The women in the second second group of towns received a single 45-minute group education, but no individualized advice.
Dr. Lombard and colleagues found women who received more intense and personalized attention were less likely to have gained weight over the one-year study period. Women in the personalized arm of the study also ate more healthful diets.
The authors noted the key features of the program included community integration, simple health messages, small changes in behavior and a mix of message delivery systems.
The authors also noted that this was a short trial and nearly a quarter of the participants dropped out, which could have affected the findings. Since the focus was on women, these findings may not be applicable to men.
The study was published in the February issue of the Public Library of Science journal, PLOS-One.
NHMRC Australia provided study funding.
None of the authors reported a conflict of interest.