Colorado State University Dietitian Offers Exercise Program Focused on Self Acceptance, Not Weight Loss

A Colorado State University study will examine how an exercise program that downplays weight loss and encourages self-acceptance can help overweight women become healthier.

The exercise program, called "On the Move," is part of a study being carried out by Cindy Byfield, a registered dietitian and doctoral candidate in the department of food science and human nutrition at Colorado State. The program, designed for large, sedentary women, will emphasize physical activity for its own sake, not as a means to weight loss.

"As a dietitian, I’ve talked with many women who have gone on and off numerous diets," said Byfield. "In most cases, dieting doesn’t lead to a healthier person. Most people lose weight, gain it back and never adopt healthy habits. Research shows us that activity improves health and reduces stress regardless of body size. The ‘On the Move’ program is designed to make larger people feel better and be healthier as they are. The program’s goal is not weight loss, although that may happen for some participants. The program’s goal is promoting physical activity as a lifelong habit."

Byfield is enrolling qualified participants for the 6-month study, which begins in January. Information sessions for those interested in participating in the program will be held Nov. 12 and 17 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Gifford Building on the Colorado State campus. More information sessions will be held in December, with dates to be announced. Cost to participate in the study is $99, but participants receive $30 back if they complete the study. Participants will be registered on a first come, first served basis.

Participants in the study will be divided into two groups. One group will participate in Byfield’s "On the Move" program and the second group will receive a 6-month health club membership.

"Participants that receive the 6-month health club membership will be on their own for the most part, with a few group activities," Byfield said. "They will receive an evaluation at the beginning and at the end of the study. This group represents a more traditional approach to physical activity and will be compared with the less traditional ‘On the Move’ group."

Participants in the 24-week "On the Move" program will meet once per week for 90 minutes. Classes will begin with stretching and movement to music, but the majority of class will be devoted to discussion. Topics will focus on incorporating physical activity into a busy schedule, good nutrition, body image and overcoming embarrassment and other psychological barriers. Classes will include related books and video clips.

"On the Move" participants also will take field trips centered around a physical activity. Group trips will include attending a water aerobics class, hiking in Lory State Park, bike riding along the Poudre River Trail and line dancing at a local club. The field trips are designed to give participants an opportunity to try something new that they might not otherwise try.

"Some of these activities may be intimidating to approach alone, particularly if a participant has never done them before," Byfield said. "When we go as a group, participants may discover enjoyable ways to be active and hopefully will go again."

"On the Move" participants are responsible for incorporating 30 minutes of moderate physical activity into each day. The activity does not need to be strenuous and can be divided into short, five-minute walks to and from the car, walks up and down stairs, housework or yardwork.

Each member of the "On the Move" group and the health club group will complete a few questionnaires and take a limited physical exam and cardiovascular fitness test before and after the study. Members of both groups also will receive a 6-month follow-up evaluation.

"The goal is to have women increase physical activity and continue an active lifestyle after the program is complete," said Byfield. "We’ve made this a six-month program, since research has shown that it takes six months to change habits. We’ll be comparing the ‘On the Move’ group with the health club group to see if the ‘On the Move’ classes and activities were beneficial in changing long-term habits."

HEALTHSOUTH health club and Miramont Sport Center in Fort Collins are collaborating with Byfield in the study. Study sponsors include American College of Sports Medicine and the American Dietetic Association.

For more information about the program, call Byfield at (970) 491-1194.