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Appetite. 2016 Oct 1;105:364-74. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.06.006. Epub 2016 Jun 8.

A weight-neutral versus weight-loss approach for health promotion in women with high BMI: A randomized-controlled trial.

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Reading Health System, Sixth Avenue and Spruce Street, West Reading, PA, 19611, USA. Electronic address:
School of Psychology, University of Kent, UK.
Department of Population Health, Luxembourg Institute of Health, Luxembourg.
Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, USA.


Weight loss is the primary recommendation for health improvement in individuals with high body mass index (BMI) despite limited evidence of long-term success. Alternatives to weight-loss approaches (such as Health At Every Size - a weight-neutral approach) have been met with their own concerns and require further empirical testing. This study compared the effectiveness of a weight-neutral versus a weight-loss program for health promotion. Eighty women, aged 30-45 years, with high body mass index (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m(2)) were randomized to 6 months of facilitator-guided weekly group meetings using structured manuals that emphasized either a weight-loss or weight-neutral approach to health. Health measurements occurred at baseline, post-intervention, and 24-months post-randomization. Measurements included blood pressure, lipid panels, blood glucose, BMI, weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, distress, self-esteem, quality of life, dietary risk, fruit and vegetable intake, intuitive eating, and physical activity. Intention-to-treat analyses were performed using linear mixed-effects models to examine group-by-time interaction effects and between and within-group differences. Group-by-time interactions were found for LDL cholesterol, intuitive eating, BMI, weight, and dietary risk. At post-intervention, the weight-neutral program had larger reductions in LDL cholesterol and greater improvements in intuitive eating; the weight-loss program had larger reductions in BMI, weight, and larger (albeit temporary) decreases in dietary risk. Significant positive changes were observed overall between baseline and 24-month follow-up for waist-to-hip ratio, total cholesterol, physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, self-esteem, and quality of life. These findings highlight that numerous health benefits, even in the absence of weight loss, are achievable and sustainable in the long term using a weight-neutral approach. The trial positions weight-neutral programs as a viable health promotion alternative to weight-loss programs for women of high weight.


Health At Every Size; Health promotion; Intuitive eating; Obesity; Weight loss

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