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Pressure from your family and friends is not going to help you lose weight

Posted February 6, 2019

Many people who wish to lose weight are actually hoping their close ones to be pressing them to keep working towards that slimmer figure. However, scientists from UCL say that keeping your personal goals personal could actually be better for your progress. A new study showed that the pressure of reporting weight loss progress to friends and family could actually hinder weight loss.

Relying on your family and friends to track your weight loss goals results in poorer results, because you are removing your own personal responsibility. Image credit: Angelsharum via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

There is a wide-spread belief that increasing accountability by making weight loss goals public will lead to faster weight loss. Scientists wanted to challenge this belief so they an online weight management service and recruited 364 clients, who had an access to a calorie counter tool, a food journal, online discussion forums, healthy eating advice, and a self-reported weight tracker. Participants were split into three groups. The ones from the first group had to get a friend to track their progress in relation to set goals. People in the second group were offered a refund if they didn’t meet their goals. Finally, the third group just soldiered on, being motivated by the money they paid to lose weight.

After 12 weeks scientists measured the weight loss outcomes of the participants. People from the second group lost on average 2.4% of initial body weight. Meanwhile people from the third group could feel happy about losing 2.2% of initial body weight. However, it was the first group hat fared the worst – these people only lost 1.1 % of initial body weight. It means that having a helper to force you to keep up with your goals is not helpful. Scientists think that it could be because people lose their own personal accountability in such cases. Meanwhile people who were offered a refund were still committed to their goal at a similar level as the control group. This means that money is not that big of a factor.

Online health interventions can be useful, but offline assistance may not provide the benefits that one wishes to get. Dr Manu Savani, one of the authors of the study, said: “The study also raises questions about the feasibility of combining online and offline weight management support, with a sizeable minority suggesting they did not want to share their goal with anyone else or they could not think of a friend or family member to provide coaching support”.

If you do want your family and friends to get involved in your efforts to improve your health, ask them to join you in the gym. Make your efforts their efforts. This way you are walking the path together and no one is playing a role of the manager or a guard.

Source: UCL


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