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The Key Factor That Helps Women Maintain Weight Loss

Shedding weight isn’t usually viewed as a team effort. But a new study makes a strong case for sharing your ups and downs with fellow dieters who’ve been there and understand the battle: Researchers writing in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that women who had reached their weight-loss goals were more likely to maintain their new size if they felt accountable to another person and received social support.

Considering how common it is for people who drop pounds to regain it all back again—approximately half of weight lost gets put back on within a year, write the researchers, and most dieters return to their pre-diet weight within three to five years—the study authors decided to take a closer look at the factors that do lead to permanent weight loss. Researchers enrolled 23 women who had shed a significant amount of weight on a healthy diet that involved weekly meetings offering support and motivation from other dieters. Many of the women had gained the lost weight back, but the dieters who had kept it off attributed their success to several things—and having a support network they felt a responsibility to was the most crucial factor.

“Our women didn’t find that accountability to themselves was so important, but having support from others was—just having that social support from someone who was going through the same experience,” says study team member Catherine J. Metzgar, R.D., a graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, in a news release. “What this study shows is that if you can find that one friend who has the same goals or can just hold you accountable, it is really helpful.”  Though the study didn’t make firm recommendations for dieters, it did conclude that weight-loss intervention programs should provide a support network.  

Going it alone? Seek out friends or family who you know are in your corner or have successfully lost weight to lean on.

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