Elder's team found the right amount of sleep and stress reduction at the start of the trial predicted successful weight loss. Lower stress by itself predicted more weight loss during the first phase of the trial, they added.
Declines in stress and depression were also important in continuing to lose weight during both phases of the trial, as were exercise minutes and keeping food diaries, Elder's group found.
Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said that "while we often tend to look at health one condition at a time, the reality is that health is best viewed holistically."
"People who are healthy and vital tend to be healthy and vital not because of any one factor, but because of many. And the factors that promote health -- eating well, being active, not smoking, sleeping enough, controlling stress, to name a few --promote all aspects of health," he added.
This study shows that people are more likely to lose weight when not impeded by sleep deprivation, stress or depression, he said.
"Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight probably could have said much the same from personal experience. Similarly, weight loss reduced stress and depression. This, too, is suggested by sense and common experience, as it is affirmed by the science reported here," Katz said.
The important message is that weight loss should not be looked at with tunnel vision, Katz said.
"Improving sleep may be as important to lasting weight control efforts as modifying diet or exercise. Managing stress is about physical health, as well as mental health. This study encourages weight loss in a more holistic context," he said.
Another study presented earlier this month at the American Heart Association scientific sessions held in Atlanta found that people of normal weight eat more when they sleep less.
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