Telephone counseling may keep the pounds off
Mon Nov 24, 2008

Counseling delivered over the phone may help people who've successfully lost
weight to keep those pounds off for the long haul, a study published Monday

Researchers found that of more than 200 obese women who completed a
weight-loss program, those who continued to receive counseling -- either in
person or by phone -- were more successful at keeping the weight off for
another year than women who only received newsletters with diet tips.

Telephone counseling appeared just as effective as face-to-face sessions.

The findings suggest that such remote counseling could offer a convenient,
relatively cheap way to aid successful weight loss -- particularly for people living
in rural areas with limited healthcare services, the researchers report in the
Archives of Internal Medicine.

All of the women in the study lived in rural counties in Florida. Travel expenses
meant that while in-person counseling was helpful, it was also more costly,
according to the researchers, led by Dr. Michael G. Perri of the University of
Florida, Gainesville.

"Telephone counseling," they write, "constitutes an effective and cost-efficient
option for long-term weight management."

The study included 234 obese women who went through a 6-month weight-loss
program that included small-group sessions on how to eat healthy and start a
home-based exercise routine.

In the end, the women lost an average of 22 pounds.

They were then randomly assigned to one of three groups: one that continued
to receive face-to-face counseling every other week for the next year; one that
received the same counseling, but over the phone; and a "control" group that
received newsletters with general weight-loss advice.

Women in the two counseling groups talked with counselors about any
problems they were having maintaining their healthy new lifestyle and got
advice on how to get past those hurdles.

After 1 year, Perri's team found, women in both counseling groups had
regained only about 2 pounds, on average -- versus an average of 8 pounds in
the control group.

The extended counseling seemed to work, at least in part, by helping the
women keep tabs on their food intake. Women in these groups were more likely
to follow the programs' advice to keep records of what they ate each day, and
the number of daily records a woman kept was directly related to her long-term
weight loss success.

Those findings, Perri and his colleagues note, "highlight the critical role that
vigilant monitoring of food intake may play in the maintenance of lost weight."

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, November 24, 2008.
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