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What is the evidence behind residential weight loss programs?

June 17, 2019.

Residential weight loss programs often referred to in various ways: weight loss retreat, weight loss camp, boot camp, or sometimes as fat camp or fat farm. These programs have one common feature—they offer weight loss at a site removed from a person’s usual surroundings. This can be very helpful to people who struggle to manage their weight because of the temptations, barriers and stressors that they face day-to-day in their home living environment. The Duke Diet and Fitness Center (DFC) is a unique residential weight loss program that is more than a ‘fat camp’ for many reasons.

By Dr. William Yancy, Medical Director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center

Integration into Duke University Hospital

The Duke Diet and Fitness Center is a fully integrated into one of the most esteemed academic medical centers in the United States. In fact, Duke University Hospital ranked #19 on the U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll in the U.S. News and World Report in 2018. That means that the DFC's treatment team is up to date with cutting-edge research (or performing it themselves!). The DFC program is highly focused on helping people who are serious about losing weight with a goal of improving their health or reducing their risk for health problems in the future.

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Expertise in the Four Pillars of Weight Management

Another DFC difference is its staff, who have over 100 years of combined experience. The DFC program is staffed by experts in the four pillars of weight management emphasized by the Obesity Medicine Association: medical, behavioral, nutrition, and physical activity. These experts, help program participants identify the medical, lifestyle or behavioral issues they need to work on, and then help increase their motivation and lower barriers to allow them to make remarkable progress while in the program, and more importantly, develop a plan to continue their success at home. All of this occurs in a temptation-free, low stress, supportive environment. The situation is so inviting and comforting to our participants that many of them say that the DFC is their ‘healthy vacation,’ and returnees say they feel as if they are coming back home.

Steeped in Scientific Evidence

So what is the evidence behind the DFC program?  First, the one-on-one counseling, the lectures, the fitness classes and even the food that is served are all steeped in scientific evidence. Our experts teach and utilize strategies that have tested effective in clinical trials and are supported in expert treatment guidelines. In addition, as new, influential findings come out, they are incorporated into the DFC program. For example, the keto eating pattern and high-intensity interval training have recently become supported by some expert guidelines but have been major parts of the DFC program for years based on solid evidence known or conducted by our treatment team.

"A study published in 2015 demonstrated an average decrease in weight of 18 pounds and in body mass index (BMI) of 2.7 kg/m2 over 4 weeks. Over those 4 weeks, participants in the study increased the average distance they could walk in six minutes by over 70 yards or almost 20%! "

However, the DFC is unique in that its participants have generously taken part in a plethora of research that has not only demonstrated the effectiveness of the program but also gained important insights into weight, related health issues, physical functioning, and quality of life. For example, a study published in 2015 demonstrated an average decrease in weight of 18 pounds and in body mass index (BMI) of 2.7 kg/m2 over 4 weeks. Over those 4 weeks, participants in the study increased the average distance they could walk in six minutes by over 70 yards or almost 20%! Other studies at the DFC over the years have developed the most commonly used weight-related quality of life survey in research, shown how binge eating disorder is related to lower weight-related quality of life and demonstrated how pain can interfere with weight loss. These studies are major contributions to weight management, and more are ongoing. Soon, patients at the DFC will be able to enroll in a study that is taking advantage of the DFC's innovative electronic menu system to examine whether giving feedback to patients about their microbiome influences their food choices.

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So if you are looking for a retreat but want to lose weight and become healthier at the same time, the DFC is the medically based residential program with proven results that also provides a warm, supportive environment free from day-to-day stresses.

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With more than 40-year years of experience in delivering wellness and weight loss programs, the Duke Diet and Fitness Center has established itself as one of the leading weight loss and total body health destinations for health conscious individuals seeking a residential style health program focused on natural weight loss.

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