Results of a five year study on the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet were made public February 25, 2013 by the New England Journal of Medicine. While the study offers evidence of a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, it also illustrates the need for support systems if positive health changes are to last.
The five year study involved 7447 high risk subjects’ adhering to a specific food plan enabling researcher to collect necessary data to assess the diet effects. University of Barcelona’s Dr. Ramon Estruch and his colleagues studied candidates ages of 55 -80 who were either smokers, Type 2 Diabetic, or had high levels of cholesterol and/or blood pressure, and randomly assigned them to a Mediterranean diet group (enriched with extra-virgin olive oil or mixed nuts), or to a Control group that followed a regular low-fat diet.
To aid in diet adherence, intensive behavioral counseling and educational intervention were included: Realistic goal setting with follow-up time frames, self-monitoring processes, feedback and reinforcement support tools, problem solving, relapse prevention, and motivational strategies all were provided through one-on-one dietitian meetings or quarterly group sessions, resulting in only a 7% cumulative dropout rate over the 4.8 years. Researchers were able to gather enough data to then conclude those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 30% cardiovascular risk reduction.
Behavioral support and accountability can also improve an already successful exercise plan. A dedicated Jazzercise member for 13 years, real weight loss came for 54 year old Rosanne only when she made a serious commitment to her diet. When she first came to the friendly Denver Jazzercise Center , Roseanne found Jazzercise’s aerobic combination of dance, strength, yoga, Pilates, and kickboxing a fun and effective total body workout leading her to lose 30 pounds. Yet, her unhealthy eating habits, kept her from continuing to lose any more. “About two years ago, I connected with 4 others from the Center on My Fitness Pal.com (a free web site providing tools for exercise and food tracking, goal setting and connecting with friends to track progress and provide support) and we created our own community of diet support”. Roseanne believes interacting with the same group online, and then seeing them in class has created a tight web of reinforcement enabling her to stick to her commitment to a healthy diet and exercise and to maintain her 76lb. weight loss .
55 year old Carolyn agrees that group support and personal accountability is what made her 60# weight loss achievable. Overweight most of her life, she joined Jazzercise 14 years ago and now sees: “numbers on the scale I thought I would never see. It still amazes me that I went from a size 16-18 to a size 4-6.” Maintaining a 40 pound loss for 10 years, she lost the last 20 pounds once she began exercise and food tracking together with her Jazzercise friends. At goal weight now for two years, she continues to log into Fitness Pal as she feels it motivates her to stay on track. “My commitment to exercise is my ‘new normal’” she says, “and the encouragement of the group gets me through the hard times”.
Jazzercise members themselves encourage group support: In the most recent membership survey, “48% report attending class with a friend, while 88% have met new friends at Jazzercise” says Nicole Cox, Marketing Communications Specialist, Jazzercise Inc® . According to the American Psychological Association, establishing an atmosphere that encourages connections that foster systems of accountability are best for long term change: “… group support, discussions about exercise and diet and assignments, keeping a food diary” are part of an optimum success strategy.
After all, support and accountability got 7,000+ high risk people sticking to a healthy diet for 5 years, and also are critical to the success of the (so far) 44 year Jazzercise franchise!
Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet PREDIMED; February 25, 2013DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1200303
Predimed: Study Website
Jazzercise, Inc®: 2460 Impala Drive, Carlsbad, CA. 92010
Nicole Cox, Marketing Communications Specialist (760)602-7119
My Fitness Pal : A free resource providing on-line tools to track daily diet and exercise, set goals and track progress, connect and support friends.