Losing weight and keeping it off is challenging, but not impossible. Just ask the men and women on the National Weight Control Registry, an ongoing research study of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained it for a year or more.
But with obesity starting younger and younger, health experts realize that weight loss efforts and lifestyle changes for children and teens must start sooner, and need to be tailored to that age group to be effective. That's why researchers from the Miriam Hospital and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University are starting the Adolescent Weight Control Registry, led by Rena Wing, director of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at the Miriam Hospital, and Elissa Jelalian, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School.
"We're doing it with the idea that we could develop better interventions for teens," says Jelalian. "We would also like to track kids over time to see how they do through transitions, such as from school to independence."
Through questionnaires and surveys, adult registry founders Wing and James O. Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition, have discovered similarities among successful losers, such as being faithful to regular exercise and diligent about portion control.
But teens lose weight differently from adults, Jelalian says, for many reasons: Teens and parents can initiate efforts; teens are learning to navigate through peer pressure and social situations; they don't always have access to gyms or fitness classes; and they're not always in control of what's served at meals.
The study is currently seeking participants ages 14 to 20 from around the country. Requirements are less stringent than for adults -- teens must have kept off at least 10 pounds for a year or more, and fulfill other conditions.
"I think when you get down to diet and activity," says Jelalian, "inevitably these kids will have somehow cut back on eating and upped their activity. But I think there are lots of ways of getting to that point."
-- Jeannine Stein
Photo credit: M. Spencer Green / Associated Press