10 June 2014

Realistic Weight Loss Goals Better Than Quick Fixes

Losing even a small amount of weight can help to improve the health of people who are overweight or obese and lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, says NICE.

The number of people who are overweight or obese in England continues to rise with more than a quarter of adults now classified as obese and a further 42% of men and a third of women classed are overweight. The long-term consequences of obesity place a huge strain on the NHS costing around £5.1 billion each year.

While there are a number of lifestyle weight management programmes already on offer across England, the effectiveness of the programmes can vary.

This latest guidance sets out the key components that need to be included in lifestyle weight management programmes in order for them to be effective, and highlights that there is no “magic bullet” to tackling obesity.

People attending a lifestyle weight management programme should look to make gradual, long-term changes to dietary habits and physical activity levels and aim to lose around 3 per cent of their body weight.

The programmes should, however, explain that the more weight lost, the greater the health benefits particularly if someone loses more than 5 per cent of their body weight and maintains this for life.

Gill Fine, independent public health nutritionist and Chair of the group which developed the NICE guidance, said: “Obesity is one of the biggest health issues facing the UK. It's a complex problem with no single solution, but programmes which aim to help people manage their weight can make a difference. What we have done in this new guidance is to identify the key components that need to be included in these programmes for them to be effective.

“These include setting realistic weight loss and weight maintenance goals, ensuring the programme is at least 12 weeks long and making sure the people running the programme are properly trained. We hope that these practical recommendations will help people make life-long lifestyle changes so they lose weight and most importantly help prevent those pounds from coming back.”

Professor Kate Jolly, professor of public health at the University of Birmingham and NICE guidance developer, said: “By losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off, overweight and obese people can improve their health.

“We all know that eating less and being more active will help us lose weight, but it can be quite hard to put it into action especially in the long-term, which is why some people need additional support. Lifestyle weight management programmes can help people to identify strategies which suit them to help maintain these changes in the future.”

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, added: “Lifestyle programmes are one part of the solution. An environment that makes it easier for people to be active and eat well is also crucial, as are services for people with other issues that affect their health and wellbeing. The guidance isn't about quick fixes. There is no ‘magic bullet'. It is about ensuring effective services are there to support people in the long term.”

Elsewhere, the guidance calls for health professionals and providers to be aware of the effort needed to lose weight and the stigma adults who are overweight or obese may feel or experience.

Carol Weir, head of service for nutrition and dietetics at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust and NICE guidance developer, said: “We found that a lot of overweight or obese people were put off seeking help because they felt that they were being blamed for being unable to lose weight and the position they have found themselves in. Therefore the guidance also recommends that doctors and other health professionals should ensure the tone they use when communicating with people who need help with their weight is respectful and non-judgemental.”

NICE has a suite of guidance available on obesity including advice on working in local communities, lifestyle weight management services for overweight and obese children and young people, and preventing cardiovascular disease.