Behavioral Program Helps People with Mental Health Issues Lose Weight

Obesity is a major concern in countries throughout the world, but especially in the United States. It has been linked to serious physical health problems including diabetes, coronary disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and many others. The battle against the bulge is difficult for many people, but can be especially challenging for people with mental health issues. Adherence to treatment of any kind is often hard for people psychological impairments; however, the combination of adverse psychological and physical health puts them at heightened risk for serious physical health issues.

To overcome this barrier to better psychological and physical health, Gail Daumit of the General Medicine Department at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland wanted to see if a behavioral approach to weight loss would be effective for people with mental health issues. In a recent study, Daumit followed 279 obese participants who were receiving outpatient treatment from psychiatric facilities. The participants included clients with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia, and they were assigned to a behavioral weight loss program tailored to address mental health issues to provide individual guidance or a control group.

All of the participants were evaluated three times over an 18 month period. Daumit found that the intervention participants had significantly higher levels of weight loss than the control participants. Additionally, the weight loss was progressive during the entire 18 months for those in the intervention condition.

Weight loss totals averaged 5% of total body weight for the intervention participants. In fact, almost 40% of the participants in the behavioral weight loss program lost weight while less than one quarter of the control participants lost significant amounts of weight. Daumit also measured any adverse side effects and outcomes and found there were no statistical differences in negative outcomes between control participants and those in the intervention.

In sum, the findings show that a behavioral program, designed to address the sensitive needs of clients with mental health issues, can be effective at reducing weight and increasing overall physical health. Daumit added, “Given the epidemic of obesity and weight-related disease among persons with serious mental illness, our findings support implementation of targeted behavioral weight-loss interventions in this high-risk population.”

Daumit, Gail L., et al. (2013). A Behavioral Weight-Loss Intervention in Persons with Serious Mental Illness. The New England Journal of Medicine 368.17 (2013): 1594-602. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Kennedy


    May 28th, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    What about me? Is there a program available that could help me lose weight?

    I think that I have tried every program under the sun to lose weight and there is never anything that sticks with me. I can lose it, for sure, but it’s the keeping it off for good that has been terribly hard for me. I don’t have any kind of mental health issues (that I know of) and yet I can’t find a way to fight this battle and win it for good. I am pretty young so the thought of having to deal with this for the rest of my life kind of scares me, because there are days I just want to be free of the worry and the weight fears. But it is always there and I am at the point where I don’t really know what I should or could do to get this under control.

  • smith


    May 28th, 2013 at 10:38 PM

    never thought about this…psychological issues would definitely make physical health concern a different ball game…medications could be affected and also the thinking methodology.

    tailor made programs are good but only so long as those in need have access to them….a great program with low reach does not help much.I hope they implement and extend this to more places.

  • Carla


    May 29th, 2013 at 3:48 AM

    Do patients with mental health problems have an overall higher rate of obesity then the general public does?

  • alisha


    May 29th, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    obesity can cause enough stress and a complex.imagine obesity along with a psychological problem!that would be a confidence-wrecking thing for anybody.would really break a person!



    May 30th, 2013 at 12:46 AM

    losing weight is good if there is a problem.but with psychological problems care should be taken to show the participants the dangers of overdoing the weight loss regime.they could end up harming themselves more than helping for all we know.

  • jaMes


    May 30th, 2013 at 3:58 AM

    With obesity so prevalent, anything that we can do to address this issue has to be viewed as a positive.

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