Social Support and Lasting Weight Loss

The help and encouragement of other people is linked to lasting weight loss.
Social Support and Lasting Weight Loss
Social support has been linked to lasting weight loss, and evidence suggests the more support one gets, the better the weight-loss results.

Social support, defined as the help and encouragement provided by other people, has been demonstrated to be linked with lasting weight loss.1 While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how the involvement of others enhances weight-loss success, the available evidence suggests that support enhances feelings of control and confidence.2

Support is an important success factor for lasting weight loss. In one study, 80 percent of those who maintained their weight loss used social support, compared to 38 percent of those who lost and regained weight.3 Among a group of 180 men and women who maintained at least 75 percent of their weight loss for five years, emotional support was a predictor of successful weight maintenance.4

In-person meetings are a popular form of support and meeting attendance is an important success factor for weight maintenance. In a prospective, two-year clinical trial that randomly assigned participants to either behavioral counseling meetings or the self-help method, those who were assigned to meetings lost and kept off significantly more weight. Moreover, there was a direct connection between the attendance at meetings and weight-loss results.5 Meeting attendance was strongly associated with weight loss in a two-year study of four diets with varying amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Among all participants, weight loss averaged about 0.2 kg per meeting attended.6

Role of Adherence
In a systematic review of commercial weight-loss programs in the United States, this finding was cited as an example of the role of adherence, in this case by getting the social support available from attending the meetings, in achieving lasting weight loss.7

The More, The Better,
And evidence suggests that the more social support a person receives, the better the weight-loss results. In a study that looked at what happened when friends joined and participated in a group weight-loss program together, both weight loss and maintenance of the loss was better than that achieved by individuals who participated in the program on their own.8

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The Weight Watchers Approach:

A supportive atmosphere is one of the pillars of the Weight Watchers approach. At meetings, support, knowledge and help are provided by both the meeting leader and fellow members. Inspiration and encouragement can also be found in the Community message boards available at the Web site.


Other Science Library Topics:

1Parham ES. Enhancing social support in weight loss management groups. J Am Diet Assoc. 1993 Oct;93(10):1152-6.

2Wolfe WA. A review: maximising social support--a neglected strategy for improving weight management with African-American women. Ethn Dis. 2004 Spring;14(2):212-8.

3Kayman S, Bruvold W, Stern JS. Maintenance and relapse after weight loss in women: behavioural aspects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Nov;52(5):800-7.

4Phelan S, Wing RR, Loria CM, Kim Y, Lewis CE. Prevalence and predictors of weight-loss maintenance in a biracial cohort: results from the coronary artery risk development in young adults study. Am J Prev Med. 2010 Dec;39(6):546-54.

5Heshka S, Anderson JW, Atkinson RL, Greenway FL, Hill JO, Phinney SD, Kolotkin RL, Miller-Kovach K, Pi-Sunyer FX. Weight loss with self-help compared with a structured commercial program: a randomised trial. JAMA. 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1792-8.

6 Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al.(''));">Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009 Feb 26;360(9):859-73. 7Tsai AG, Wadden TA. Systematic review: an evaluation of major commercial weight loss programs in the United States. Ann Intern Med. 2005 Jan; 142 (1):56-66.

8Wing RR, Jeffery RW. Benefits of recruiting participants with friends and increasing social support for weight loss and maintenance. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1999 Feb;67(1):132-8.