In November 2023, data from the Health Survey of England revealed a potential secret to weight loss. In modelling scenarios, community and lifestyle interventions were estimated to lead to an overall decrease of 1% in the prevalence of obesity. This is the greatest relative change for a single tier of treatment when compared to primary care, pharmaceutical, and surgical interventions.
A reduced obesity prevalence of 1% is equivalent to an 8-9% relative reduction, or 115,000 fewer children with obesity. This offers further insights into the significance of community support on weight loss outcomes. Below, we take a closer look at the benefits of community-based treatments and the increasing accessibility of such programs, emphasising their potential to revolutionise weight loss.
Unveiling the power of community-based treatments
It’s long understood that psychological stress is associated with being overweight. Yet, many comprehensive lifestyle intervention programs still fail to consider stress-related eating behaviour. A 2023 study from Scientific Reports offers a fresh perspective. By incorporating practical units and small-group workshops, a Healthy Lifestyle Community Programme (HCLP) can promote the potential for behaviour change and the perception of internal signals — all the while strengthening group support. This approach emphasises social health as one of the main topics of lifestyle change, alongside a healthy and predominantly plant-based diet, stress regulation, and physical activity.
For instance, cooking workshops were held with the goal of trying out and learning new healthy recipes with like-minded people. Meanwhile, stress-and-eating workshops aimed to reflect personal eating behaviour in the context of stress in an environment of trust. These were intentionally offered in smaller groups of less than 20 participants, allowing for more individual self-reflection and change strategies and intimate group support.
At the end of the HCLP, the weight of the intervention group decreased significantly by 1.5 ± 1.9 kg, with participants showing a decrease in emotional and external eating and an increase in restrained eating. These findings highlight the profound impact of community-based interventions on stress-eating and, consequently, on weight reduction.
The accessibility of community-based treatments
As more healthcare systems recognise the potential of community-based treatments, the NHS has taken a progressive step by offering accessible resources to address obesity and promote weight management. Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Dr Bruce Warner explains how “adults with obesity can now walk into any high street community pharmacy to take the first step on a life-changing weight loss journey”. Here, community pharmacy teams can refer you to the twelve-week online NHS weight management programme, accessible via an app on your smartphone.
Similar programmes are available around the world, such as community-based interventions ActNow BC and ParticipACTION in Canada. For those who seek personalised advice and one-to-one support from experts and peers, paid weight loss programs are readily available as well. You can search online for “weight loss classes near me” and join intimate members-only social communities or expert-led peer group workshops. These services can assist you in establishing connections with people who share common life experiences, whether you’re living alone, a senior, or a person of colour so that your weight loss approach is tailored to your lifestyle and preferences.
See how joining a fitness group for families has been life-changing for Wednesbury mum Sylwia Juranek, who used to struggle to do 3,000 steps a day. Now, she can walk up to 18,000 steps a day with her son, allowing her to lose weight while her son’s results at school improve. Their mother-and-son relationship has never been better as well. This inspired her to spearhead her own walking community, which is open to all ages and family members.
The success stories of those who have participated in such community programs underscore the invaluable role of community support in achieving and maintaining weight loss goals. To stay updated on your community, read through our health category and other news on Business Magazine 24.