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Who hasn’t lost weight only to gain it back and more? And what woman, regardless of age, hasn't been dissatisfied with her size and shape? Problematic eating behaviors and weight cycling (or yo-yo dieting) are the usual longterm end results of diet programs that focus on weight loss, and many experts think that weight cycling is more harmful than never losing weight at all.

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Enter Lynn Rossy, a health psychologist from the University of Missouri, who set out to break a chain of weight cycling with her "Eat for Life" program. Rossy created a 10-week plan that integrates mindfulness and intuitive eating skills to produce a positive relationship with food and the body. Traditional weight-loss solutions rely on external cues such as prescribed diets, counting calories, and weight scales, whereas "intuitive eating" uses internal cues, including hunger and fullness, to guide eating behaviors. Mindfulness focuses on awareness, values clarification, and self-regulation. “Eat for Life encourages people to become more engaged with their internal body signals and not the numbers on the scale,” Rossy claims.

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Rossy evaluated the effectiveness of Eat for Life and published the results in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Her study asked if skills training in intuitive eating and mindfulness could help produce positive changes in food choices and body image. She conducted her research in the workplace on 128 women whose weights ranged from normal to morbidly obese and who had tried a lot of diet programs over the course of their lifetimes. To show change, Rossy measured before-and-after outcomes using tested self-report questionnaires. She found that, compared to women not in the program, participants reported fewer problematic eating behaviors such as bingeing, fasting, and purging. 

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Many employers offer worksite wellness programs to their employees to promote healthy lifestyles and cut the cost of health insurance; however, most employers offer traditional weight loss-focused interventions, unaware of their unintended consequences. New approaches like Eat for Life offer a viable alternative to employers and anyone wishing to break the diet-weight gain cycle.

By Mary Hartley, R.D., for DietsInReview.com

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