Long-term treatment of severe obesity: are lifestyle interventions still an option?

Expert Rev Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Nov;12(6):391-400. doi: 10.1080/17446651.2017.1386551. Epub 2017 Oct 18.


Following lifestyle intervention programs based on dietary restriction and habitual physical activity, weight loss, however large, is reported to peak within six months. Despite maintenance protocols, only few cases continue to lose weight thereafter. The majority of cases regain weight and adherence to lifestyle changes are fostered by long-term contact with a supportive team. In general, surgical procedures are reported to produce much larger weight loss and to impact more favorably on long-term weight loss maintenance. Areas covered: We performed a PubMed search on lifestyle modification studies, focusing on the role of behavior programs for the long-term management of obesity in comparison with surgical procedures. Behaviorally-achieved weight loss outcomes can be improved by integrating standard behavior therapy with self-regulation cognitive skills, motivational interviewing and/or phone/internet-based recall systems. Expert commentary: Clinically-important long-term weight loss is achievable by behavior therapy in a small proportion of subjects with obesity, however severe, through personalized programs associating lifestyle modification interventions, with procedures aimed at developing commitment and responsibility skills. A new area of research is the integration of cognitive-behavior therapy with bariatric (metabolic) surgery, either pre- or post-operatively, to exploit long-term adherence to healthy diet and habitual physical activity.

Keywords: Obesity; bariatric surgery; behavior; lifestyle; treatment; weight loss; weight maintenance.