Family members may benefit from behavioral therapy for obesity


Obese people using behavior therapy to lose weight might notice something as they trim their waistlines -- their family members may be slimming down as well.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn. found there could be a ripple effect when an obese family member uses cognitive behavioral therapy to lose weight, sometimes causing others in the family to drop some pounds at the same time. This type of psychotherapy used for weight loss focuses on changing lifestyle habits and becoming more mindful of thoughts and feelings about food.

Researchers surveyed 230 adult family members of 149 people in Italy who enrolled in a weekly cognitive behavioral therapy group that lasted about six months. They were asked about what foods they ate, how much they ate, and if they were motivated to exercise.


On average, family members reduced their daily calorie intake by 200. That translated in an average weight loss of about 2.2 pounds. Among obese family members, the average weight loss was almost six pounds.

Family members also started to eat more healthfully, cutting back on fatty foods (especially dressings), refined carbs, chocolate, fruit juices and carbonated drinks and main courses that included cheese and fatty meats. Fruit consumption went up overall.

A large number of family members also became more motivated to exercise. By the end of the study, 14 people went from being overweight to normal weight, and seven went from being obese to overweight.

The authors noted that since cognitive behavioral therapy encourages family support, that involvement may spur spouses, parents, siblings and children to become more aware of their own eating habits.