Family Involvement in Weight Control

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
November/December 2003 Volume 14, Number 6
©2003 Gürze Books

Getting family members involved in weight loss efforts has been one approach suggested to help obese individuals lose weight and maintain the loss. Results of a recent study suggest that effective weight loss treatment may depend upon matching therapy to the individual age group being treated (Int J Obesity 2003;27:987).

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom reviewed numerous studies of randomized trials with at least a one-year follow-up, to see how successful the interventions were. The authors noted that despite the worldwide increase in the prevalence of obesity, they could find only 16 randomized studies of family involvement in weight control, weight maintenance, and weight-loss interventions. Most of these studies were relatively small (mean: 52 participants).

What researchers found

Involving family members in weight control, weight maintenance, and weight loss programs may improve their effectiveness. In studies of spouses, for example, there is generally more support for couples being treated together—one study suggested that this effect may be enhanced by setting goals related to specific behaviors (such as specific eating behaviors) than to goals related to weight on the scale.

Children were much more successful at losing weight when their parents were involved. The more techniques that were used to modify behavior, the greater success children had at losing weight and keeping it off. As for adults, the involvement of a spouse improved weight loss attempts.

Adolescents were an entirely different case. Perhaps because of striving for independence, most adolescents were more successful at losing weight and maintaining the loss when they were treated alone, without parental involvement.

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