Improving body image can enhance the effectiveness of weight loss programs based on diet and exercise, say dieticians in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
The findings are based on a study of overweight and obese women on a year-long weight loss program. Half the women were given general health information about good nutrition, stress management, and the importance of looking after oneself. The other half attended 30 weekly group sessions (the intervention plan) where issues such as exercise, emotional eating and improving body image were discussed.
On the behavioral intervention plan, women found that the way they thought about their body improved and that concerns about body shape were reduced. Compared to the control group they were better able to self-regulate their eating and they lost much more weight, losing on average 7 percent of their starting weight compared to less than 2 percent for the control group.
"Body image problems are very common amongst overweight and obese people... Our results showed a strong correlation between improvements in body image, especially in reducing anxiety about other peoples' opinions, and positive changes in eating behavior. From this we believe that learning to relate to your body in healthier ways is an important aspect of maintaining weight loss," concluded research leader Dr Pedro Teixeira, from the Technical University of Lisbon.
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Source: BioMed Central