"Motivational interviews" may aid weight loss

NEW YORK Tue May 15, 2007 12:22pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women with diabetes may lose more weight if they not only diet and exercise, but also talk about why they need to make a change, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, tested the effects of "motivational interviewing" -- a technique in which a counselor asks open-ended questions to help clients deal with any conflicts they have about making a particular change.

In this case, the change was a diet-and-exercise overhaul, and the clients were overweight women with type 2 diabetes.

All 217 women in the study were part of an 18-month weight-loss program that consisted of regular group meetings and prescriptions for reduced-calorie, reduced-fat diets and regular exercise.

Some of the women were also randomly assigned to meet with a counselor every few months for a motivational interview. In the end, these women lost more weight and were able to keep it off longer, the researchers found.

Dr. Delia Smith West, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, led the study.

Over the 18-month study, women in the motivational-interview group lost an average of 8 pounds, versus about 4 pounds in the comparison group. The difference, according to West's team, is that women in the interview group were better able to stick with their lifestyle changes.

Motivational interviewing, according to the researchers, encourages people to come up with their own "arguments" for why they should make a change, whether it's quitting smoking or starting to walk for exercise. By asking open-ended questions and giving non-judgmental responses, counselors also help clients uncover for themselves the obstacles that have kept them from changing.

Future studies, according to West and her colleagues, should look at whether motivational interviewing can also help men and non-diabetic adults shed excess pounds.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, May 2007.

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