This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
Nursing Professor Helps Women Achieve Successful Weight Loss
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MAILED: Jan. 14, 1997

EAU CLAIRE -- It was three years ago when an obese middle-aged woman approached Kathryn Anderson and expressed frustration with her doctor's lack of guidance in weight loss. As a registered nurse and associate professor of family health nursing at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Anderson decided it was time to take a closer look at the problem.

Some health care professionals have long been known for their "just do it" approach to weight loss. But, from talking with obesity sufferers, Anderson knew this approach wasn't effective for the majority of obese women. Obesity is a complex disease and involves many factors of one's life, said Anderson, associate professor of family health nursing.

Anderson decided to tailor a study to examine the factors influencing weight problems and determine effective strategies for weight loss to be implemented in primary care settings.

"It was obvious that we needed to develop a non-punitive approach to weight loss," she said. "Obese women need guidance and individualized assessment and attention to be successful."

Between 1994 and 1995, Anderson, with the help of several undergraduate and graduate students, studied 16 obese women from the Eau Claire area through the "Obesity and Women" project. Most of the women were between 50 and 100 pounds overweight, she said.

The volunteers participated in the eight-week program designed to combine fitness and psychoeducation to explore the underlying reasons for obesity and determine what factors influence compliance with light exercise.

Most of the participants had experienced five or more major attempts to lose weight and many had spent thousands of dollars in the process, Anderson said.

"Most of the women had experienced a great deal of failure in other weight-loss programs and were very ashamed of their experiences," she said.

The project was funded by a UW-Eau Claire faculty-student collaboration grant and a faculty research grant from Sigma Theta Tau, a nursing honor society. The research was conducted for two hours each week by Anderson and Matt Berry, a 1994 graduate from the School of Nursing.

Berry, a second degree student who earned a degree in exercise physiology from the University of Minnesota, developed the exercise assessment and implementation component of the project. He modified a treadmill program used for patients with coronary artery disease to study the fitness levels of the volunteers.

"Overcoming obesity takes more than willpower; a person must tackle many complex perspectives to experience lasting change," said Berry, who now owns and operates an adult family home for people with developmental disabilities in Menomonie.

Open-ended discussions were held at each session to determine awareness and feelings about health and weight-related issues. Anderson facilitated the audiotaped discussions in which the group learned to determine food groups, count calories, understand the feeling of hunger and more. The women also were prompted to think back to rules they grew up with concerning food to help determine why and how their obesity began.

"Many obese women are used to taking care of and providing for others before taking care of themselves," Anderson said.

Participants attended the session for free but were asked to purchase "Feeding the Hungry Heart," a self-help weight-loss guide by Geneen Roth.

"One of our goals was to help these women experience success," Anderson said. "One of their greatest desires was to see change and feel a positive result even if it was a small step."

In July, Lisa Sirinek, a graduate student in the advanced practice nursing program, began reviewing transcriptions from the audiotaped sessions for accuracy and analysis. Sirinek, who said she has always had an interest in nutrition and exercise, has incorporated the obesity study into her graduate research project.

"Obviously many of the current weight-loss programs aren't working," Sirinek said. "This data will help us determine what type of interventions help people and which cause frustration."

Data from the tapes show study participants felt a strong need for support groups to share their feelings. Most of the obese women came into the study feeling as if they were alone in their frustration and disappointment to lose weight, Sirinek said.

"When I listened to the tapes I wished I had been there to meet the people," she said. "This study will help me and many others implement effective programs in professional practice."

Preliminary findings from the first session of the study indicate changes need to be made in the professional treatment of obese women, Anderson said. Some proposed implications for practice include: the development of community health facilities where obese women are physically and psychologically comfortable; the training of health care providers to be sensitive and competent concerning the components of obesity; and modification of exercise prescriptions to meet physical conditions of the patient.

Sirinek presented her findings from the study for her graduate scholarly project in December at the School of Nursing. A research abstract also will be submitted for the Sigma Theta Tau Research Day in April, Anderson said.

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UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741
newsbur@uwec.edu

Updated: April 22, 1997