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People in a WeightWatchers program lost twice as much weight as those with GP (General Practitioner) care. That’s what a new health study in England says. WeightWatchers partly funded the study, but stressed that similar weight loss programs could be as effective, and that any similar program involving regular weight checks, goal-setting and peer support could achieve the same.

GPs can buy one patient a 12-week WeightWatchers course for about $130. With similar projects running in Australia, Germany, and (the U.S.?), the National Obesity Forum said buying in services could benefit the HMO’s bottom-line.

Over the course of a year, the Northampton GPs referred half of 772 overweight patients to weekly WeightWatchers meetings, paid for by the HMOs. The other half received GP-led care. This typically involved things like providing leaflets about healthy eating and scheduled appointments with a nurse for weigh-ins and advice.

The patients’ weight was recorded at regular intervals throughout the year to monitor the results. At each appointment, measurement were taken and Weight Watchers came out best. By 12 months, that group had lost twice as much – nearly 15lbs on average per patient, compared to around 6lbs in the GP-led group.

Although this amount of weight loss may seem small, the researchers say it can make a big difference in terms of health. Losing ten to fifteen pounds can halve a person’s diabetes risk if they are overweight, so even a little can be beneficial. It’s the support of the group as well as having a weekly weigh-in and the accountability it entails that seems to work. People are more likely to stick at it. More patients dropped out of the trial in the GP-led group than in the Wt Watchers group. compliance was a problem generally, with slightly over half of the patients completing the trial in all.

Physicians are aware that weight-loss schemes would not be suitable for everyone, and that is certainly not the answer to the epidemic of obesity. Men may not feel it’s the right group for them, nor some ethnic groups. But, GPs can now be confident that here is a way they can really help some of their patients that’s based on evidence.

The health advisory body NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) has already recommended in guidelines that GPs should look at referring overweight patients to a commercial provider, and that it was important for patients to have the motivation to shed excess pounds. Many GPs will try and find out how determined people are to lose weight, using techniques such as motivational interviewing, but it helps enormously to have a locally available group-based program to then point people towards.

Primary care providers may consider setting up locality-based groups like this, or buying into one of the commercial weight loss support programs such as WeightWatchers. GPs are generalists by definition whereas WeightWatchers are the “consultants” in this particular field. It’s therefore not surprising that the latter achieve the better results. Referral to any serious and motivated organization with a proven weight loss system which can be duplicated anywhere has to be the best option for the patient, the HMO, and the GP.

WeightWatchers has apparently won a legal battle with rival Jenny Craig who has agreed to end a controversial advertising campaign as part of a legal settlement between the two weight-loss companies. Weight Watchers President David Kirchhoff announce that Jenny Craig would no longer be allowed to use false and misleading advertising, “now and in the future”. WeightWatchers had accused Jenny Craig’s ads of false and misleading claims. The ads referred to a study comparing Jenny Craig’s prepackaged meals system with Weight Watchers current weight-loss program.

New York based Weight Watchers said that no such study had been done and that the claims in the ads were not supported by science or fact. A U.S. District Court had imposed a temporary restraining order at the time barring Calif. based Jenny Craig from publishing, broadcasting, or distributing the ads through other means.

Weight Watchers began in the early 60’s, when founder Jean Nidetch began inviting friends into her Queens home once a week, to discuss how best to lose weight. Today, the Weight Watchers group of friends has grown to millions of women and men around the world who use the products and services of Wt Watchers to lose unwanted pounds.

After that first Queens meeting, an estimated one million people, from Brazil to New Zealand, come together each week to help each meet their weight-loss goals at group meetings. And now, WW is reaching others via the internet. The WW weight loss plan is developed by certified scientists with expertise in weight management. In addition, Weight Watchers confers regularly with leading experts to ensure that its weight loss plan embodies the latest scientific thinking.

Available on the Internet are offerings that include a comprehensive free-access site with broad and deep information on weight loss, a rich community section, healthy lifestyles, and a convenient way of locating meetings. Two offerings are also available to consumers on a subscription basis. WeightWatchers eTools to enhance the meetings experience, and WW Online for those who cannot join Meetings.

Twenty minutes of continuous aerobic activity 3 days per week is recommended for weight loss. Examples of physical activity that are considered aerobic are jogging, hiking, swimming, walking, running, bike riding, cross-country skiing, rowing, and jumping rope.

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