Context: Current public health policy recommends weight loss for obese individuals, and encourages energy-restricted diets. Others advocate an alternative, 'non-diet' approach which emphasizes eating in response to physiological cues (eg hunger and satiety) and enhancing body acceptance.
Objective: To evaluate the effects of a 'health-centered' non-diet wellness program, and to compare this program to a traditional 'weight loss-centered' diet program.
Design: Six-month, randomized clinical trial.
Setting: Free-living, general community.
Participants: Obese, Caucasian, female, chronic dieters, ages 30-45 y (n=78).
Interventions: Six months of weekly group intervention in a non-diet wellness program or a traditional diet program, followed by 6 months of monthly after-care group support.
Outcome measures: Anthropometry (weight, body mass index); metabolic fitness (blood pressure, blood lipids); energy expenditure; eating behavior (restraint, eating disorder pathology); psychology (self-esteem, depression, body image); attrition and attendance; and participant evaluations of treatment helpfulness. Measures obtained at baseline, 3 months, 6 months and 1 y.
Results: (1 y after program initiation): Cognitive restraint increased in the diet group and decreased in the non-diet group. Both groups demonstrated significant improvement in many metabolic fitness, psychological and eating behavior variables. There was high attrition in the diet group (41%), compared to 8% in the non-diet group. Weight significantly decreased in the diet group (5.9+/-6.3 kg) while there was no significant change in the non-diet group (-0.1+/-4.8 kg).
Conclusions: Over a 1 y period, a diet approach results in weight loss for those who complete the intervention, while a non-diet approach does not. However, a non-diet approach can produce similar improvements in metabolic fitness, psychology and eating behavior, while at the same time effectively minimizing the attrition common in diet programs.