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Team up to bring your weight down

Team up to bring your weight down

Joining a team may help you achieve your weight loss goals

Written by Emily Creasy, MS, RD, LD, (Nutrition Remarks writer), Reviewed by Dr. Leahey, M Tricia Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School and the Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and Nalin Siriwardhana, Ph.D.

Health News Highlights (March 23, 2012) <<<Print PDF>>>

Research shows that setting up goals and working together as a team may help to maximize your weight loss efforts over time. The social influence of both competition and encouragement from others provides an increased sense of accountability that is often needed to follow through with and ultimately achieve sensible weight loss goals.

To lose a pound of weight, a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories must be created. This can be achieved by reducing your daily calorie intake, increasing your physical activity and calorie usage, or a combination of the two, which is most often recommended. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that a successful and healthy weight loss of one pound per week can be achieved by subtracting 500 calories from your diet each day. Other options for weight loss include cutting out 250 calories from your diet and adding 30 minutes of physical activity to your day. This can create a combined calorie deficit of approximately 500 calories, without significant dietary changes.

An exciting study by Dr. Tricia Leahey and colleagues at the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University found that a team-based approach to weight loss may help to maximize the effects of dieting and exercise. Study participants enrolled in teams of 5 to 11 members and were allowed to compete against other teams in any or all of the following conditions: weight loss, minutes of physical activity, and/or pedometer steps. A total of 1,064 teams were included in the study with a majority of the teams choosing to compete in all three divisions. Team captains monitored team progress and sent encouragement messages throughout the competition. All participants were provided with a log book and an online tracking system which provided feedback graphs indicating their progress as well as the progress of their teammates. Participants were encouraged to share diet information and exercise together when possible. Prizes were offered throughout and following the competition as additional motivation to complete the program.

Following the study, participants were asked to rate how much their teammates influenced their weight loss, or social influence. The researchers found a significant team effect on percent weight loss of individuals. Those who achieved a 5 % weight loss or greater tended to stick together within their teams providing ongoing encouragement and support to one another. It was noted that a higher social influence rating influenced the chance of achieving significant weight loss by 20 %. Those who rated less social influence showed smaller weight changes, which may indicate a poor team environment with less overall encouragement and effort by the teammates to achieve weight loss goals. Based on this, stronger teams were more successful at accomplishing weight loss goals.

Similar effects were seen with regard to physical activity and pedometer steps. Participants on more active teams showed greater increases in physical activity and daily steps when compared to those on less active teams. This suggests that increased encouragement and an increased pressure to perform well, due to the activity level of teammates, may help to promote the overall physical activity level and step count of the team. In other words, greater outcomes were seen in teams with more active participation and involvement.

Over the last 20 years, obesity has been on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over two third of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese and one third are obese. In addition, approximately 17 % of children and adolescents are also considered obese. While many diet and exercise options are available, it is becoming evident that weight loss efforts can be maximized with the help and support of others. Meet with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine a weight loss program that is safe for you and your specific needs. Encourage your family and friends to make small changes with you such as cutting out sodas or monitoring your portion sizes at meals. Small changes can add up over time and encouragement from those around you can help you to stick to your goals.


  1. American Heart Association. Understand Your Risk for High Blood Pressure. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandYourRiskforHighBloodPressure/Understand-Your-Risk-for-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002052_Article.jsp.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.U.S. Obesity Trends.http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.HTML.
  3. Leahey TM, Kumar R, Weinberg BM, Wing RR.Teammates and Social Influence Affect Weight Loss Outcomes in a Team-Based Weight Loss Competition. Obesity. February 2012.
  4. Leahey TM, Crane MM, Pinto AM, Weinberg B, Kumar R, Wing RR.Effect of teammates on changes in physical activity in a statewide campaign. Preventive Medicine. July 2010.

Copyright © 2012 Nutrition Remarks. All rights reserved

Is it true that eating slowly will help you lose weight?

Is it true that eating slowly will help you lose weight?

Are you overweight and eating fast? Learn to eat slowly, You may avoid weight gain.

Frontier Voice of Nutrition Remarks (February 13, 2012) <<<Print PDF>>>

Nalin Siriwardhana, Ph.D., interviewed Dr. Eric R Muth, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and
Director of the Human Factors Institute Clemson, SC, USA.

Eating too fast may increase the risk of weight gain. If you are a fast eater and you want to maintain your healthy weight or stop unhealthy weight gain, it may be worthwhile to slow down the rate of eating.

Even if you have eaten enough for your physiological needs, you can eat beyond those needs because it takes time for your brain to sense and signal that you are full. If you eat fast, by the time your brain knows that you are full, you may have already overeaten. Overeating leads to intake of more calories than you need and those excess calories will store in the body and make you gain weight. Therefore, if you eat slowly and give your body time to understand and signal fullness, you may have a better chance of stopping before you overeat.

Scientists are working to uncover the mechanisms that link slow eating and weight gain prevention. When eating fast, you put lot of calories in before you feel full. Scientific evidence supports the idea that eating slower may reduce the calorie intake and eventually prevent unhealthy weight gain.

A recent exciting study conducted by researchers at Clemson University, South Carolina, USA showed that the calorie intake of overeating individuals who consume larger amounts of food can be controlled by learning to eat slowly. Nutrition Remarks interviewed the principle investigator, Dr. Eric R Muth, Ph.D., of the study and a simplified version of the conversation is given below:

Question from Nutrition Remarks: What scientific evidence is in favor of the fact that fast eaters eat more compared to slow eaters?

Answer from Dr. Muth: Studies have found an association with fast eating, obesity and weight gain. However, interventions to slow down eating do not always lead to weight loss. So, it is possible that eating rate is associated with obesity and weight gain, not as a causal factor, but just somehow as a coincidence.

Also, it is known that obese individual eat faster and take larger bites, both of which increase the calorie intake. On the other hand, a study from Dr. Martin’s research group at Pennington Biomedical Research Center showed that reduced eating rate could decrease calorie intake in men but not in women. Therefore, these observations that some scientific studies show reducing eating rate could reduce overall calorie intake should be more intensely studied and define criteria and recommendations in detail. For example, slowing eating rate will likely not help a person who already eats slowly.

Question: What are the known/proposed mechanisms that explain how fast eating helps high calorie intake?

Answer: The general idea is that it takes time for satiety cues (a signal from your body to brain to tell that you are full) to stop eating. People can eat fast and eat too much before the cues have time to work. Slowing eating speed gives more time for the cues to work and for people to pay more attention to the cues.

Question: How do you like to describe the bite-rate counter?

Answer: The bite rate counter is a wristwatch like small device that can be worn on the wrist of the hand use to eat. It automatically counts bites.

Question: How does the bite rate monitoring by the bite-rate counter help to reduce calorie intake?

Answer: It cues people in a way that gives faster feedback than the body’s own satiety cues. In other words, it will tell how fast you eat. Therefore, you can adjust yourself to eat slowly during the meal. One of the other interesting advantages of the bite-rate counter is that it can be programmed in a variety of different ways according to the needs of the user. Therefore, the bite counter can have pre-set limits that show a person when to stop.

Question: Can the bite counter be used easily and how practical it is?

Answer: Yes, it is worn like a watch and can be used in real-time. Data stored on the device can be downloaded to a computer if desired. In addition, the settings on the device can be customized using computer software.

Question: Your study shows that only the big meal eaters can benefit by this intervention. How do you like to describe the fact that calorie intake was not reduced in those who ate less than 400kcal in your study?

Answer: Yes, it seems that slowing bite-rate with the bite-rate counter may be most effective for individuals who consume larger amounts of food but not individuals who eat small meals. This is called a ceiling effect. When the baseline is high, it is easier to make it go down than up. The opposite is a floor effect. When the baseline is low, it is easier to make it go up than down.

Question: How do you describe the psychological effect of bite counter?

Answer: In one sense you can think of it as a biofeedback device. In another sense, you can think of it as a non-judgmental reminder.

This news release was based on the original scientific article published by Dr. Muth in Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Additional general background information was acquired from PubMed and NIH sources.

Original work; Scisco et al., Slowing bite-rate reduces energy intake: an application of the bite counter device. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Aug ;111(8):1231-5.

Dr. Eric R. Muth Ph.D., is a Professor and Director of Human Factors Institute, Department of Psychology, Clemson University. Dr. Muth has specific expertise in measuring human physiology in free living humans. His current work focuses on tracking intake behavior using simple, wearable devices.

Adam Hoover and Dr. Muth, are partners in a company, “Bite Technologies,” that markets and sells a bite-counter device. Clemson University has filed a US patent for intellectual property known as “The Weight Watch”, serial no. 61/144,203 having a filing date of January 13, 2009. Bite Technologies has licensed the method from Clemson University and has been funded by South Carolina Launch, a state organization that incubates startup companies associated with university intellectual property. Bite Technologies manufactures self-contained, portable versions of the Bite Counter.

Dr. Muth would like to acknowledge his main collaborator and business partner, Dr. Adam Hoover, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Jenna Scisco, a PhD candidate in his lab, was the lead investigator on the slow eating paper. Yujie Dong, a PhD candidate in Dr. Hoover’s lab also collaborated on the project.

Specific funding for the paper: Jenna Scisco was funded on a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate(NDSEG) fellowship through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Funding for experiment materials was provided by a Creative Inquiry grant from Clemson University.

More about Dr. Eric Muth and work




Written by Nalin Siriwardhana, PhD. and Amanda Fields


Copyright © 2012 Nutrition Remarks. All rights reserved