Receiving an obesity-related disease diagnosis might be enough to motivate patients to start a weight-loss program, but sustaining the efforts poses a challenge, according to findings published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In a retrospective study at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Carolina, Megan McVay, PhD, of Duke University, and colleagues recruited 45,272 VA patients (91% men; mean age, 58 years) with a BMI >30 to determine whether weight change or obesity-related diagnosis in the preceding 6 months were associated with initiation and sustained use of a behavioral weight-management program. Participants, identified from a longitudinal study of the VA cost of obesity, were stratified into two cohorts: initiators and non-initiators.

Researchers categorized weight gain as >3% weight loss, weight stable with <3% change or weight gain of 3% to 4.9%, 5% to 9.9% or >10%.

Data analysis revealed patients were more likely to initiate treatment if they had weight gain of at least 3% (3% to 4.9%: OR=1.64; 95% CI, 1.52-1.77 vs. 5% to 9.9%: OR=1.99; 95% CI, 1.84-2.16 vs. >10%: OR=2.68; 95% CI, 2.32-3.1) or if newly diagnosed with any obesity-related comorbidity (ORs=2.14-3.59). Weight change and new comorbidity diagnoses were not associated with sustained use of the weight-loss program.

Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, said: “Many of us will respond with good intentions when faced with a health crisis and challenge, but it is easy to put this behind us once the shock has passed and the reality that it is not easy or fun to lose weight becomes clear. Patients need to keep the reasons they want to change fresh in their minds, set attainable goals, and get ongoing support for their efforts.”