Article Title

The effect of cognitive behavioral stress management on perceived stress, biological stress markers and weight loss/regain, from a diet-induced weight loss program: A randomized controlled trial


Obesity and psychosocial stress are inter-related chronic conditions which lead to increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The aim of this parallel randomized controlled trial was to determine whether the addition of a structured cognitive behavioral stress management (CBSM) on to a commercial online weight loss program, resulted in greater weight loss than the standard weight loss program in isolation. Eligible participants were adults between the ages 18–65, BMI 30–45 kg/m2, with no major systemic or psychiatric conditions. Seventy-four participants were assigned according to simple randomization using computer generated random numbers to either a 3-month online Weight Watchers® program (n = 36), or Weight Watchers® plus 10 weekly sessions of CBSM (n = 38). The primary outcome was weight at 3 months compared to baseline. Secondary outcomes were weight at 12 months and subjective/objective stress system measures and metabolic markers at 3 and 12 months. The study was powered at 90% to detect a 5 kg difference in weight between the two groups at 3 months. Independent sample t-tests were used to analyze the difference in weight (in kg) between the groups and paired sample t-tests were used to analyze the difference within group at different time intervals. At follow-up, there was no significant difference in weight loss between the groups (1.8 kg, 2.1 kg). However, CBSM was effective in reducing psychological measures of stress (p < 0.05) and salivary cortisol (waking, 20-min post-waking) at 3-months; with the effect on stress persisting at 12-months within the CBSM group. The reduction in PSS at 3 months was significantly greater in the CBSM group (3.84, p = 0.028) compared to WW only group at 3 months. Addition of CBSM to a standard weight loss intervention did not improve the weight loss over the standard approach on its own, but the CBSM intervention improved psychological stress parameters and cortisol secretion in participants living with obesity.


Overweight, Obesity, Weight loss, Stress, Psychological intervention

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