For over 30 years, Professors Rena Wing and James Hill have been over-seeing the National Weight Control Registry [NWCR] at Brown University in America. For nearly 20 years, I’ve been following their research and teaching students from it. These days I’m no longer teaching students, but bringing the fabulous research from the NWCR to the attention of mid-life women on my weight loss programme called Transform Me. The intent and purpose of the Registry researchers, led by Professor Rena Wing, has always been to explore the factors that contribute to successful or unsuccessful weight loss as well as it’s maintenance into the long-term. With the Registry having been set up in 1994, when many of us were in our 20’s, they have now tracked thousands of men and women, categorising them into ‘Successful’ versus ‘Unsuccessful’ weight loss individuals. It is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance.
I talk about the work of the National Weight Control Registry in the MyMT™ Transform Me weight loss programme (this is on my annual January sale for you now) and how, when I was presenting at the World Health Organisation conference on Healthy Ageing back in 2016, I met Professor Wing. She had just set up a new outreach weight loss programme for women – many of whom were overweight, had Type 2 Diabetes and experiencing cardiovascular health changes. My ears pricked up when she mentioned that many of them were in their early 50s. At the time, within the fitness and dieting industries, there was a lot of emphasis on high protein and high fat Keto diets as well as high-intensity exercise for weight management, but as many women know, this becomes difficult to maintain motivation to do, when we aren’t sleeping or when our joints are sore. I was fascinated with the research she had undertaken on ‘successful’ weight loss participants because it was completely the opposite to what I had learned in sport and exercise science research.
That was the day that I began to question what I was doing to manage my own weight gain during menopause. My weight was increasing, no matter what I did.
But Professor Wing put paid to that with her presentation. As I listened I understood that much of the information about weight loss, exercise and dieting, was informed by exercise and sports science and sports nutrition research and not for women’s changing health as they moved through menopause. That’s why, due to the fabulous work of Professor Wing and her team, I have incorporated some of her work into the MyMT™ programme too. The NWCR research findings are important to all of us in mid-life – simply because 80% of the participants are women in their mid-40’s and early 50s who have lost weight and kept it off for over a year.
Whilst studies have been reported from the Registry for the past two decades, one of the more recent findings from the NWCR studies, was about long-term maintenance of weight loss and the concept of ‘morning-ness’. This is the term given to people who are ‘morning people’ and comes from studies on sleep and chrono-type, i.e. whether someone is a ‘morning’ or an ‘evening’ person.
Obesity has been associated with both shorter sleep duration and poor sleep quality, because the amount of sleep we get influences our two main gut hormones – leptin and grehlin. Shorter sleep duration has been shown to lead to decreased levels of leptin, which is a protein that tells our brain that we are full. When levels of leptin are decreased, then this may cause over-eating and uncontrolled appetite, because leptin helps to manage satiety (fullness).
It is well known that women transitioning menopause don’t sleep well. I’ve talked about this often in my articles. It’s because of this link with leptin levels, that I always say that you can’t lose weight if you aren’t sleeping. Your gut hormones are against you.
If you are a morning person however, then this runs in your favour when it comes to successful weight loss – ‘successful’ is deemed as a year or more sustaining your weight loss by Professor Wing and her NWCR team. Findings from the NWCR has provided valuable insight in the characteristics and behaviours of highly successful weight loss participants (13kgs or more) and how they have kept it off. Individuals report continued consumption of a reduced calorie, low fat diet, regular engagement in physical activity (primarily walking) and frequent self-weighing.
But there’s another factor as well.
Most of the highly successful long-term weight loss participants (all middle-aged) were ‘morning’ people who also enjoy a longer sleep duration than those who did not keep the weight off long term.
“Results demonstrated that individuals who have been highly successful at both weight loss and long-term maintenance were more likely to be categorised as ‘morning-type’ chronotype and reported longer sleep duration and better sleep quality” mentioned the study (Ross, Thomas & Wing, 2016).
Improving sleep quality and setting a new routine for the morning is one of the hallmarks of the MyMT™ programme. Sleep research consistently shows that to improve sleep quality and quantity, then our morning routine matters. This is why, for weight loss, the first module women listen to, is all about sleep quality and starting the day with natural light in our eyes to switch off our sleep hormone melatonin, helping to re-set the day-night circadian rhythm. Not only is this important for weight loss, but it’s also important for our changing cardiovascular health as we age.
Menopause symptoms are a result of changing hormone levels, primarily oestrogen and progesterone, which affect the balance of other hormones, including our sleep, thyroid, adrenal and gut hormones. This is why menopause changes can upset your body’s unique bio-chemistry and yes, it also is advised to go to your Doctor to discuss your symptoms as well. But I also want you to know that lifestyle change is important in order to allow your body to adapt to its ‘new normal.’ This is what MyMT™ delivers to you – all the scientifically evidenced step-by-step strategies which you access over 12 weeks, so you discover how to work with your changing hormones in menopause, not against them.
I don’t interfere with any medications or supplements you may be taking, because this is between your Doctor and you. But what I do teach you is how to restore the hormonal harmony that menopause takes away. This is what’s waiting for you in your exclusive member area now.
If you are interested in joining me on my annual January SALE, then please have a listen to the video below when you can, or click on the ‘Learn More’ button above to read about it. It would be my privilege for you to learn everything I did to turn around my 15kg weight gain in menopause.
Dr Wendy Sweet [PhD]/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine
Hill, J., Wyatt H., Phelan S., Wing R. (2005). The National Weight Control Registry: is it useful in helping deal with our obesity epidemic? J. Nutr Educ Behav. Jul-Aug; 37(4):206-10.
Ross, K. M., Graham Thomas, J., & Wing, R. R. (2016). Successful weight loss maintenance associated with morning chronotype and better sleep quality. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 39(3), 465–471.