London: Improving body image helps in weight loss programs based on diet and exercise.
Obesity is known to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease and can significantly shorten life expectancy.
Technical University of Lisbon`s Pedro J. Teixeira, who led the research, said: "Body image problems are very common amongst overweight and obese people, often leading to comfort eating and more rigid eating patterns, and are obstacles to losing weight."
"Our results showed a strong correlation between improvements in body image, especially in reducing anxiety about other peoples` opinions, and positive changes in eating behaviour."
Researchers from Technical and Bangor universities (Spain and Britain, respectively) enrolled overweight and obese women on a year-long weight loss programme, reports the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Half the women were given general health information about good nutrition, stress management, and the importance of looking after themselves, according to a Technical University statement.
The other half attended 30 weekly group sessions where issues such as exercise, emotional eating, improving body image and the recognition of, and how to overcome, personal barriers to weight loss and lapses from the diet were discussed.
Women in the second group found that the way they thought about their body improved and that concerns about body shape and size were reduced.
Compared to the first group, they were better able to self-regulate their eating and they lost much more weight, losing ann average seven percent of their starting weight compared to less than two percent for the first group.