The following contributed by Jamie Pugh at Footsteps Lifestyle
New research has shown that overweight individuals lost twice as much weight through Weight Watchers than those who received advice from their GP. The study took two groups of overweight people, gave one group 12 months free membership to Weight Watchers and the other group received advice from their GP. As well as losing more weight, the Weight Watchers group also had a bigger reduction in waist size and body fat. So, it’s pretty clear then, the NHS should commission Weight Watchers to tackle the U.K’s obesity problems?
With such bold results from a research project that was funded by Weight Watchers themselves, it’s important to look at the study to make sure we can fully accept the results. The main issue with the study is the time it took place over. 12 months is not a long time, there are plenty of ways that a person can lose weight over this amount of time. This is therefore not an issue. The issue is finding how people can keep this weight off. Lots of people lose weight only to put it back on again, a vicious cycle that has created the yo-yo dieter. It would have been more beneficial to see how the study would have gone had it been ongoing with the results showing the weight loss and maintenance over , say, a 5 year period.
Another limitation is the fact that people knew which group they were a part of. If you don’t think this is an issue then imagine the following scenario;
Imagine we want to see if a new drug can enhance the performance of a weight lifter. To test it we give half of the people taking part the new drug and the other half a dud. This way if the half using the new drug improves more than the dud group, we can start to assume that it might have an impact on their performance. Now imagine if each group knew which they were taking, the drug or the dud. Those taking the dud would know that what they were taking something that doesn’t affect performance and those taking the drug would know that there was a chance that they were taking something that could improve their performance. Do you think that the results would be the same if they did know as to if they didn’t?
Psychology plays a massive part in human studies and with the participants knowing of they were in the weight watchers or the GP group may have affected the outcome.
The people in the Weight Watchers group received 12 months membership for free. So, is it valid to say that their weight loss is the same as those who pay for the service? Within the study it did not say of those who join Weight Watchers, how many have a membership that lasts 12 months. It may be possible (although I am not suggesting is true) that Weight Watchers commissioned the study in an attempt to increase the average length of memberships.
The final issue I take with the study is the fact that only Weight Watchers and the GP service were used in the study. Why not a competitor to Weight Watcher such as Slimming World, or a different approach to weight loss such as hiring a personal trainer or a 12 month gym membership. These are just some of the other options available to people, and at different costs. It would have been very interesting to see how much weight loss you get for your pound through these different services.
Not all bad
One of the reasons given as to why the Weight Watchers programme was more successful in terms of weight loss, fat loss and waist reduction was the group support that comes with such a service. Motivation can stem from this as people often feel they are losing weight together which is a lot less daunting than going it alone. This is very important for anyone who is trying to lose weight.
I admit I am slightly cynical about this study and its results. It does not address the pressing matter of how to keep weight off once we’ve lost it, it offers a costing service for free which may alter people’s natural behaviour and it does not include other means of weight loss. However, as I have said, there is an important conclusion that has been drawn and that is the strength of group support. Having friends around you going through the same thing means you’re more likely to carry out the behaviours that will lead to weight loss.
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