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For weight loss, add sleep and relaxation to diet and exercise

March 29, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • Adults who get enough sleep and have low stress are more likely to lose weight, a study finds.
Adults who get enough sleep and have low stress are more likely to lose weight,… (Alex Nabaum / For The Times )

Weight loss is typically accomplished through changes in diet and exercise. But a new study sheds light on some other factors that can help an individual achieve success. Getting a healthy amount of sleep, avoiding stress and complying with specific elements of a weight-loss plan (such as keeping a food diary) seem to boost the odds of success, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., involved nearly 500 adults who had an average body mass index of 37.7 (30 or greater is considered obese). The participants, whose average age was 55 were instructed to attend 22 group counseling sessions over 26 weeks, reduce dietary intake by 500 calories a day by following a low-fat, low-sugar diet, and increase exercise to at least 180 minutes a week.

After six months, 60% of the participants had lost at least 10 pounds and were enrolled in a maintenance phase of the study. Researchers found that the people who lost at least 10 pounds had some common characteristics. They were more likely to attend their counseling sessions, keep food diaries and exercise. But coming into the study, the successful dieters were more likely to report that they slept between six and eight hours each night. People who had lower stress scores coming into the study were also able to lose more weight.

People who need to lose weight should consider changes in their sleep patterns and exposure to stress, the study authors said. "... if stress becomes chronic and eating is learned to be an effective coping behavior, highly palatable food may appear to be 'addictive,' " they wrote.

The study did not find that "screen time" was linked to weight loss. But TV watching may have a different effect on weight loss than time spent on computers at work, the researchers said.

The study is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Related: Obese and overweight women and children may underestimate how heavy they are.

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