43 overweight women (BMI = 25) were given a 12 week membership to either a Weight Watchers center or to a local health club.
The women in the Weight Watchers (WW) group were instructed to follow the WW program, including weigh-ins, counseling sessions and the WW point system for monitoring caloric intake.
The women in the health club (HC) group were instructed to follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for weight loss.
The researchers monitored the participants progress by measuring body weight (BW), body fat percentage (%BF), intrabdominal fat (IAF) and subcutaneous abdominal fat (SAF), total cholesterol (TC), HDL-C with sub-fractions, and triglycerides.
At the end of 12 weeks, the WW group lost 5% (9 lbs.) of their body weight, while the HC group lost only 2.5% (2.9 lbs.).
Yippee!!! Weight Watchers wins, I never have to go to the gym again.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, not so fast there pardner.
The lead researcher, Steve Ball, found that a large percentage of the lost weight was lean tissue and not fat.
Muscle requires calories to survive. Fat doesn’t. Lose your muscle and your metabolism drops.
It’s not how much weight you lose, it’s how much body fat you lose and where that body fat comes from.
While the HC group lost very little weight during the 12 weeks, they may have improved their overall health picture due to their significant loss of intrabdominal fat. According to Ball, “these results imply that exercise may have positive influence on the metabolic syndrome despite the number on the scale.”
Ball also determined that the group support offered by Weight Watchers resulted in most of the WW group lasting the entire 12 weeks, while many of the HC participants quit.
“These results imply that overweight, sedentary women joining a fitness center with the intent of weight loss or body fat change will likely fail without support and without altering their diets,” Ball said. “Nearly 50 percent of people who start an exercise program will quit within six months.”
“This study attempted to discover what takes place in the real world when overweight women attempt to lose weight.” Ball said. “I think the outcome of the study speaks volumes about the necessity for a multi-pronged approach in order to lose weight, body fat and gain health benefits. I hope that this will be the first in a series of studies investigating commercial weight-loss programs.”
So what does all this science mean?
It means, that if you want to succeed at losing body-fat, improving your health and transforming your body, you need to combine the physical (diet, exercise, injury prevention, balance, neuro-muscular performance, energy system, etc…) and the mental (emotional support, coping techniques, inter and intra-personal techniques, etc…).
That is why good personal trainers are worth their weight in gold. In addition to the fitness and nutrition programming, a good personal trainer can provide the emotional support that their clients need while they are transforming their bodies and their minds.
Who would have thought that that big ball of muscle down at your local gym was actually an amateur psychologist.