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Weight Loss Maintenance Research

17 May 2019 - 15:00
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Losing weight is never easy, but with a goal in site it’s easier to motivate yourself to eat healthy and exercise. However once you’ve reached your goal weight every day thereafter it gets a little bit harder to stay on track, and weight-loss maintenance becomes the biggest obstacle. In fact almost all research studies agree, only about 20% of people who are successful at weight loss, can maintain this weight loss for longer than 5 years and stay successful in the long term. Thus weight loss maintenance has a very low success rate. For aspiring weight loss candidates this is a grim prospect, especially bearing in mind the effort it takes to lose the weight in the first place. So how does one overcome this? In our previous research study we found that the successful maintainers exercised more, restrained themselves from eating certain foods, ate differently, and had greater cognitive function compared to lean women with no weight loss history and women who experienced weight loss relapse. Thus the answer comes down to better self-discipline, self-control and ultimately higher executive function making certain individuals more successful at weight loss maintenance.

 

If we consider the energy balance model for weight loss/weight gain, we know that staying weight stable is a result of your energy intake being in a dose-response relationship with your energy expenditure. Thus the more you exercise the more hungry you will be to feed the energy demands of your body. However, in most cases the opposite of this equation is false, humans do not necessarily have a lower drive to eat if their energy expenditure is very low. For example, the energy it takes to go through a typical sedentary, nine to five, computer desk job. The conclusion made from the latter, is that humans eat as a consequence of other environmental factors, additional to their energy demands.  Can we say people eating for emotional reasons are somehow addicted to food? Research show that this is highly likely. If we can unofficially consider that people struggling with obesity are struggling with some sort of food addiction then perhaps therapies treating addictions would be suitable for individuals struggling to maintain a healthy weight.   

 

Research show that individuals who struggle from substance abuse may lack abstinence from the drug due to lower executive function. This could mean that improving executive function could improve self-control, leading to successful abstinence.

 

Previous research in methamphetamine addicts has shown that regularly completing a working memory task on a computer, significantly improved their working memory. This directly improved executive function and at the same time gave “tik” addicts better control over their drug abuse. Similar research has found positive results in people suffering from alcoholism. Although humans cannot abstain from eating in totality, we could argue that individuals may improve their unwanted eating behaviour through indirectly improving their executive function (via improving working memory).

 

 The aim of our next study, Mind the Gap 2 (which follows on from Mind the Gap 1), is to determine if working memory training will specifically change a person’s eating behaviour through self-control (or discipline) over their self-set rules in order to maintain their weight loss and prevent them returning to old habits which resulted in them becoming obese in the first place. The working memory training will be completed 4 times a week by means of a cell-phone app, each training session lasting around 15min. The training will carry on for 6 weeks. Before and after the training, participants will undergo 3 visits to the laboratory to complete a series of assessments. These assessments include behavioural questionnaires, body fat analysis, metabolic rate measures and executive function measures, including a brain scan of the brain’s response to a cognitive task while inside an MRI. If the study finds that an easy working memory training programme via a cell phone app can help successful dieters stick to their new healthy and controlled lifestyle behaviours, it will be recognized as a tool to prevent weight loss relapse, a phenomenon far more challenging than the weight loss itself.

 

We are actively recruiting research participants for our study and we are looking for:

 

Women who

  • have lost at least 10% of their initial weight and have reached their goal weight, and wish to stay weight stable,
  • are between the ages of 25 and 45.
  • have had a BMI over 30 when they started off with their weight loss journey and preferably underwent this weight loss within the last 2-3 years.
  • are apparently healthy, and not on chronic medication that will influence their metabolism.
  • Are NOT claustrophobic as that will prevent them from doing the MRI scan

Willingness to undergo the 6-week working memory training by using a iPhone or iPad provided.

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