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In this study, obese women were taught about good eating habits and how to cook for a healthy diet while receiving social support. After one year, the women had only lost a little weight -- but were significantly fitter and happier with themselves.
The Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Hull team that was responsible for the study are now presenting the results at Cambridge University. The overall conclusion is that a healthy lifestyle could improve health risks regardless of weight.
The 62 women in the Leeds study were aged 24 to 55 years, and all that took part in the study had a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. All the women were required to do four hours a week of exercise, consisting of activities like tai chi, aqua aerobics and circuit classes.
In addition, the study included educational sessions to teach how to read food labels and cook food, as well as a type of behavioral therapy to help the women respond to body cues such as hunger and feeling full. In one exercise, a dietician encouraged participants to eat a chocolate bar in small portions over the course of a week.
Overall, the women were encouraged to eat whatever they wanted -- in moderation -- while performing their daily exercises and activities. The women who took part lost a small amount of weight during the first three months of the study, whereas women in the control group gained weight during the same period.
Although there was only a small amount of weight loss with the women in the study, all women ended up significantly fitter -- and happier. Blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels fell, and respiratory fitness increased. Additionally, the women in the study felt better in terms of general well-being, body image, self-perception and stress.