Trying to help a friend keep weight off after a diet sounds like a good idea, but certain kinds of advice may actually have the opposite consequence, a new survey from Greece suggests.
Researchers surveyed 289 people who successfully lost weight and maintained it off for more than a year, and 122 people who lost weight, but then regained it shortly afterwards. Participants were asked detailed questions about their diet, physical activity and the kinds of support they received from friends and family.
Surprisingly, research results showed that people who regained weight reported receiving more support overall from their family and friends. Hoping to get to the bottom of this puzzling finding, the researchers dug into the data, looking at each question participants answered about the kinds of support they got.
They found that, for the “regainers”, subsistence often came in the form of reminders about what they should and shouldn’t’ do. For instance, compared to people who maintained their weight loss, the ones who regained weight reported more frequently that their friends and family reminded them not to feed high-fat foods, or reminded them to be physically active.
In contrast, people who maintained weight loss more often reported that their friends and families merely engaged in helpful activities with them, such as eating healthy or low-fat foods with them. Maintainers were also more likely to say that their friends and family frequently complimented them on their eating habits.
“Family and friends of people trying to maintain weight loss could possibly be more helpful when offering their subsistence in the form of compliments and active involvement, rather than verbal instructions and reminders, ” the researchers, from Harokopio University in Athens, wrote in the Jan. 22 issue of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
It could be that people who’ve lost weight opinion these reminders in a negative style, the researcher said. “Well-intentioned supporting may be perceived negatively, as criticism and meaningless reminders, by the person already struggling to cope with weight management, ” they wrote in their study.
This would agree with findings from a previous examine, in which some girls said that reminders to eat better or exercise more made them feel worse, because they were already struggling to construct these lifestyle changes.
Still, the researchers can’t explain what caused the findings, and they noted that it’s possible that friends and family offer reminders merely after they notice that a person is already starting to set weight back on.
In addition, the researchers noted that some of the differences between the regainers and the maintainers, although statistically meaningful, were still relatively small.
For example, the participants rated the social support the received on a scale of 1 to 5, based on how often something happened, and on the question “how often has your family reminded[ you] to feed healthy or low-fat foods, ” in the past month, the average score for regainers was 3, compared to 2.4 for maintainers.( On the scale, a rating of 1 indicated “almost never, ” 2 “rarely, ” 3 sometimes, ” 4 “often, ” and 5 “almost always.”)
Future analyses are needed the follow people forward in time to clarify whether certain specific types of social subsistence lead to negative outcomes, the researchers said.