In a study published in journal Obesity has found that weight loss efforts by people have a ripple effect meaning that those around people making effort to lose weight also shed a few pounds.
Researchers at University of Connecticut reveal in their study that tracked the weight loss progress of 130 couples over six months. The researchers found that when one member of a couple commits to losing weight, the chances were good the other partner would lose some weight too, even if they were not actively participating in a weight loss intervention.
The study found that approximately one third of the untreated partners lost 3 per cent or more of their initial body weight after six months despite not participating in any active intervention. A three percent loss of body weight is considered a measurable health benefit. Scientists have pegged this as a ripple effect of weight loss efforts.
Researchers also found that the rate at which couples lose weight is interlinked. In other words, if one member lost weight at a steady pace, their partner did too. Likewise, if one person struggled to lose weight, their partner also struggled.
While there have been prior studies that looked at ripple effects of weight loss programs, they were limited to patients who participated in closely monitored, clinic-based interventions and those who had bariatric surgery. The latest study is the first that adopted a randomized, controlled design route to look at couples’ progress in less structured and widely available weight loss programs.
The couples were divided into two groups. In one group, one member of the couple was enrolled in a structured six-month weight loss program (Weight Watchers) that provided in-person counseling and online tools to assist with weight loss. In the second group, one member of the couple received a four-page handout with information on healthy eating, exercise, and weight control strategies (e.g. choosing a low-fat, low-calorie diet, portion control). Contact with those individuals stopped with the handout.
The results showed that the untreated partners of both those who tried losing weight on their own (the pamphlet recipients) and those who participated in the structured program (the Weight Watchers group) also exhibited weight loss at three and six months.