If You Lose Weight, Your Spouse Might Too

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Amy Gorin, Ph.D. Professor, Psychological Sciences Associate Director Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) University of Connecticut Storrs, CT   06269-1248

Dr. Gorin

Amy Gorin, Ph.D.
Professor, Psychological Sciences
Associate Director
Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP)
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT   06269-1248

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:  This study examined whether behavioral weight management programs have a ripple effect on untreated spouses.  That is, if one member of a couple participates in a weight loss program, does the other untreated spouse benefit?  Given that many spouses are of a similar weight status, if one spouse is overweight, the other spouse tends to be overweight as well — understanding how weight management programs impact both spouses has important public health implications.

To examine this question, 130 spouses were randomly assigned to Weight Watchers or a self-guided control group. Spouses assigned to Weight Watchers group had only one member enrolled in a structured 6-month weight loss program (Weight Watchers) that provided in-person counseling and online tools to assist with weight loss.

In the self-guided 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). The results indicate that nearly one-third (32%) of untreated spouses in both groups lost ≥3% of their initial body weight (weight loss based on obesity management guidelines) at the 6-month mark, and weight losses did not differ between untreated spouses of Weight Watchers and self-guided participants.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: People who make an effort to lose weight aren’t just helping themselves, they may be helping others too.  If you lose weight and engage in healthy behaviors, your spouse is likely to as well. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Our findings suggest that behavioral weight management programs have a more far reaching effect than we typically consider.  It’s not only the individuals seeking weight loss treatment that benefit, but others around them. Health care providers and organizations dedicated to healthier lifestyles may wish to consider the weight loss ripple effect in their future assessments and treatment plan. 

Citations:

Gorin, A. A., Lenz, E. M., Cornelius, T., Huedo-Medina, T., Wojtanowski, A. C. and Foster, G. D. (2018), Randomized Controlled Trial Examining the Ripple Effect of a Nationally Available Weight Management Program on Untreated Spouses. Obesity. doi:10.1002/oby.22098 

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