Written by Claire Madigan and Henrietta Graham. Narrated by Marie T. Russell.
Between the ages of 20 and 55, most adults gain between 0.5 and 1kg a year, which could see some people become overweight or obese over time. This weight gain isn’t usually the result of overeating large amounts of food. Instead, it’s usually caused by eating a small amount – around 100-200 extra calories – more than is needed each day.
The good news is that we may be able to prevent ourselves from gaining weight by making small changes to our diet or physical activity. Our recent review found that eating 100-200 calories less, or burning an extra 100-200 calories each day, may be enough to stop ourselves from gaining weight in the long run. This is known as a “small-changes approach”, which was first proposed in 2004 by James Hill, an American expert on obesity, to help people manage their weight.
Many small studies have investigated the use of the small-changes approach for weight management. We combined the results of these smaller studies into a larger review to get an average (and more statistically reliable) result of the effect of this approach on weight management. We looked at 19 trials – 15 of which tested a small-changes approach to prevent weight gain, and four that test this approach for weight loss.
We analysed the data of nearly 3,000 people in weight-gain prevention trials, and 372 people in weight-loss trials. Participants were aged between 18 and 60, 65% of whom were female. In those who used the small-changes approach to prevent weight gain, we found that...
Claire Madigan, Senior Research Associate, Centre for Lifestyle Medicine and Behaviour, Loughborough University. Prior to her academic career, she worked in public health, commissioning weight management services and working on the childhood obesity strategy in Hampshire. Claire has expertise in weight management and her research focuses on behavioural strategies to help people manage their weight.
Henrietta Graham, PhD Researcher, Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University. Henrietta completed her BSc in Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast in 2018 and her MSc in Health Psychology at King’s College London in 2019. Within Loughborough University, Henrietta researches weight management, in particular whether a small change approach may be an effective strategy for helping the public to manage their weight.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.