Study Suggests Weight Loss Ripple Effect in Spouses

Behavioral weight management programs have impacts not just on the person undergoing treatment but also on spouses. A new study published in Obesity tracked the weight loss progress of 130 spouses over a six-month period. The study found that the rate at which spouses lose weight is interlinked. In other words, if one member lost weight at a steady pace, their partner did, too.

Lead author Amy Gorin, PhD, a professor of psychological sciences and associate director at Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) says, "This was the first study to use a randomized controlled trial to examine whether individuals' participation in less structured programs (ie, Weight Watchers and a self-guided treatment condition) has a weight loss ripple effect on untreated spouses."

In this study, 130 spouses were randomly assigned to Weight Watchers or a self-guided control group. Participants were aged 25 to 70 years and were assessed at baseline, three months, and six months. Also, treated participants had to have a BMI range from 27 to 40 kg/m2 and at least 25 kg/m2 for untreated spouses. Couples assigned to the Weight Watchers group had only one member enrolled in a structured six-month weight loss program that provided in-person counseling and online tools to assist with weight loss. In the self-guided group, one member of the couple received a four-page handout with information on healthful eating, exercise, and weight control strategies (eg, choosing a low-fat, low-calorie diet; portion control). The results indicate that nearly one-third (32%) of untreated spouses in both groups lost ≥3% of their initial body weight (weight loss based on obesity management guidelines) at the six-month mark, and weight losses didn't differ between untreated spouses of Weight Watchers and self-guided participants.

The Obesity Society Spokesperson James O. Hill, PhD, a professor of pediatrics & medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine, says, "Spouses of those losing weight in these programs also lost weight. This suggests that it may be possible in the future to more actively involve spouses in weight management programs." Overall, untreated spouses can also benefit from weight loss of their treated spouses.

— Source: The Obesity Society