Program takes ‘healthe’ approach to women’s weight loss

Mar 19 2015

Dr Melinda Hutchesson

Young women looking for inspiration to achieve a healthy weight have the opportunity to enrol in a targeted program soon to be trialled by nutrition researchers at the University of Newcastle.

Called Be Positive Be Healthe, the study was developed in consultation with over 500 women aged 18-35 who spoke of being hampered by work and social commitments as well as costs.

“We’ve listened to what young women want in a weight-loss program and have considered the everyday challenges they face in being able to lose weight,” chief investigator Dr Melinda Hutchesson said.

“The initial pilot study in 2013 was a great success, with participants reducing their weight, waist circumference, and body fat mass. But more importantly we received some great tips to further improve the program.”

Be Positive Be Healthe will be delivered using a variety of technologies – a dedicated website with eating and activity resources, a smartphone application to monitor kilojoule consumption, social media interaction through Facebook and Instagram, plus email newsletters and text messages.

The title reflects the fact that the ‘feel-good’ factor associated with a positive body image is a powerful motivator in eating more healthily and being physically active at a time when women gain an average of six kilograms during their early 20s to 30s.

“They’re often too busy for traditional weight-loss programs delivered in group sessions but we know that young women are constantly on line. We thought that a website and smartphones were the best way to reach them,” Dr Hutchesson said.

“The overall goal is to achieve a healthy weight in a realistic way, losing around 5 to 10 per cent of their initial weight. We are focusing on improving their eating behaviours – that’s more fruit and vegetables and less fast-food and alcohol – while in terms of exercise it’s all about moving more and sitting less.”

To be eligible for the six-month trial women must be aged 18-35 and have a body mass index between 25 and 34.9kg/m2. They will be required to attend two assessment sessions at the University in April and October, and have access to the internet and an iPhone.

“It can be difficult to recruit younger people for research studies be we’re hoping it won’t be the case here because this program is tailored specifically for them,” Dr Hutchesson adds.

Enrolments are open now. Contact 4921 5405 or

* Dr Hutchesson is a member of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Cardiovascular Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.