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NICE: Guidance on weight management programmes

Losing even a small amount of weight can improve the health of overweight or obese people, according to health watchdog NICE. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has outlined best practice for weight management programmes focusing on diet, activity and behaviour change. 

Recommendations include:

 - Ensure services cause no harm: Health professionals and providers should be aware of the effort needed to lose weight, prevent weight regain or avoid any further weight gain. Also be aware of the stigma adults who are overweight or obese may feel or experience. Ensure the tone and content of all communications is respectful and non-judgemental. They should also ensure equipment and facilities meet the needs of most adults who are overweight or obese. 

 - Address the expectations and information needs of adults thinking about joining a lifestyle weight management programme: GPs and providers of weight management programmes should discuss the importance and wider benefits of making gradual, long-term changes to dietary habits and physical activity levels. They should also explain the more weight lost, the greater the health benefits, particularly if someone loses more than 5% of their body weight and maintains this for life and although it varies on average, people attending a lifestyle weight management programme lose around 3% of their body weight.

 - Refer overweight and obese adults to a lifestyle weight management programme: GP practices and other health or social care professionals who give advice about, or refer people to, lifestyle weight management programmes should be clear that no programme holds the 'magic bullet' or can guarantee long-term success. For funded referrals, it should be noted that: programmes may particularly benefit adults who are obese (that is, with a BMI over 30 kg/m2, or lower for those from black and minority ethnic groups) or with other risk factors (comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes).

Gill Fine, independent public health nutritionist and chair of the group which developed the NICE guidance, said: “Obesity is one of the biggest health issues facing the UK. It's a complex problem with no single solution, but programmes which aim to help people manage their weight can make a difference. What we have done in this new guidance is to identify the key components that need to be included in these programmes for them to be effective.

"We hope that these practical recommendations will help people make life-long lifestyle changes so they lose weight and most importantly help prevent those pounds from coming back.”

The guidance is available to view on the NICE website