Social Support and Lasting Weight Loss

The help and encouragement of other people is linked to lasting weight loss.
Social Support and Lasting Weight Loss

Social support, defined as the help and encouragement provided by other people, has been demonstrated to be linked with lasting weight loss.1 While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how the involvement of others enhances weight-loss success, the available evidence suggests that support enhances feelings of control and confidence.2

Among those who have never been overweight as well as those who have maintained a weight loss, the use of social support is very high (70% and 80% respectively). This contrasts sharply with those who have lost and regained weight, where the use of available social support is low (38%).3

In a prospective, 2-year clinical trial that randomly assigned participants to either Weight Watchers meetings or the self-help method, those who were assigned to Weight Watchers meetings lost and kept off significantly more weight. Moreover, there was a direct connection between the attendance at Weight Watchers meetings and weight-loss results.4

Role of Adherence
In a systematic review of commercial weight-loss programs in the United States, this finding was cited as an example of the role of adherence, in this case by getting the social support available from attending the meetings, in achieving lasting weight loss.5

The More, The Better,
And evidence suggests that the more social support a person receives, the better the weight-loss results. In a study that looked at what happened when friends joined and participated in a group weight-loss program together, both weight loss and maintenance of the loss was better than that achieved by individuals who participated in the program on their own.6

view footnotes

The Weight Watchers Approach:

A supportive atmosphere is one of the pillars of the Weight Watchers approach. At meetings, support, knowledge and help are provided by both the meeting leader and fellow members. Inspiration and encouragement can also be found in the online Community message boards available at the

This content is reviewed regularly. Last updated December 17, 2011.


Other Science Library Topics:

1Parham ES. Enhancing social support in weight loss management groups. J Am Diet Assoc. 1993 Oct;93(10):1152-6.

2Wolfe WA. A review: maximizing social support--a neglected strategy for improving weight management with African-American women. Ethn Dis. 2004 Spring;14(2):212-8.

3Kayman S, Bruvold W, Stern JS. Maintenance and relapse after weight loss in women: behavioral aspects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Nov;52(5):800-7.

4Heshka S, Anderson JW, Atkinson RL, Greenway FL, Hill JO, Phinney SD, Kolotkin RL, Miller-Kovach K, Pi-Sunyer FX. Weight loss with self-help compared with a structured commercial program: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1792-8.

5Tsai AG, Wadden TA. Systematic review: an evaluation of major commercial weight loss programs in the United States. Ann Intern Med. 2005 Jan; 142 (1):56-66.

6Wing RR, Jeffery RW. Benefits of recruiting participants with friends and increasing social support for weight loss and maintenance. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1999 Feb;67(1):132-8.