Weight Regain and Quality of Life

Excess body weight often has a strong negative impact on many dimensions of daily living. Not surprisingly, weight loss (even just 5-10% of initial weight) often leads to marked increase in energy levels and an overall improvement in quality of life (QoL).

We know, however, that a significant proportion of people (if not most) eventually regain the weight they lose – how does this weight regain affect their well-being and QoL?

This was recently examined by David Yankura and colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh, PA, who
examined the impact of weight regain on QoL postmenopausal women, who had participated in a randomized lifestyle intervention trial of diet, physical activity, and weight loss (OBESITY)

Their analysis focused on women who lost >5 lb during the initial 6 months of the study (n = 248 out of an initial 508). They divided the cohort into three groups based on subsequent weight change between 6 and 18 months: weight loss (WL; >5 lb loss), weight stable (WS; < 5 lb change), and weight regain (WR; >5 lb gain). QoL was measured at baseline, 6, and 18 months using the SF-36.

Of the 248 women studied, 51 (21%) continued to lose weight after initial weight loss, while 127 (51%) maintained a stable weight, and 70 (28%) regained weight. Between baseline and 6 months, women in the regain group had decreased mental health and social-functioning scores, while the WL and WS groups improved in these subscales. Between baseline and 18 months, energy improved most significantly in those with continued weight loss.

The small to moderate improvement in perceived general health and energy experienced with weight loss, was reversed by weight gain.

So where’s the message in this study – of course, I don’t expect people who regain the weight to feel great about themselves and of course we know that the health issues come back with the weight.

For me the key point here is that it was the folks with decreased mental health and poor social functioning who regained the weight – as I have always maintained, successful weight management takes more than simply handing out diet and exercise plans.

Edmonton, Alberta