Mental Health and Weight Loss Maintenance

Obesity is a common health problem with various medical complications, and an increased risk of mental health disorders, of particular note, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Weight loss treatment involving diet, exercise and behaviour modification produces an initial weight loss of approximately 5 to 15 percent, resulting in clinically beneficial health outcomes (Legenbauer, Zwaan, Muhlhans, Petrak & Herpertz, 2010). However, most dieters regain about 30 to 50 percent of their lost weight during the next year and are typically back at baseline within 3 to 5 years, whereas a minority of individuals (20 to 30 percent) are successful at long term weight loss maintenance (Legenbauer, Zwaan, Muhlhans, Petrak & Herpertz, 2010). The association of emotional overeating and binge eating episodes with weight loss has een studied frequently, and it has been shown that higher dietary disinhibition and binge eating levels were associated with a higher risk of regaining weight after initial successful weight loss. In a recent study, researchers from Ruhr University in Germany, assessed the impact of mental disorders on weight loss maintenance among initially successful weight losers who participated in a very low calorie program (Legenbauer, Zwaan, Muhlhans, Petrak & Herpertz, 2010). This study included 251 obese subjects and tracked their success over a period of 4 years. The results of this study found that although 64 percent of participants lost 10 percent of their weight during initial treatment, participants only maintained a weigt loss of 5 percent of their initial weight after 3 years. Moreover, it was found that increases in percentage body fat were the result of mental health disorders including depression, anxiety and eating disorders. For this reason, self regulation strategies may be of crucial importance for successful long term weight maintenance.

Legenbauer, T.M., Zwaan, M., Muhlhans, B., Petrak, F. & Herpertz, S. 2010. Do mental disorders and eating patterns affect long term weight maintenance? General Hospital Psychiarty, 32, 132-140.

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