Losing weight and keeping it off

Project title: The maintenance of Healthy Weight for Life program effects

Start date: January 2016
Estimated end date: August 2018

What is the issue?

Participants of weight loss programs often gradually regain any weight they have lost after the program ends, and there is limited evidence about strategies that help to prevent this weight re-gain.

Healthy Weight for Life (HWFL) is a weight loss program that private health insurance company HCF offers to members who have a Body Mass Index of 28 or more (ie. those who are overweight or obese) and have osteoarthritis, a cardiovascular condition or type 2 diabetes.

The program delivers a step-by-step weight loss program over three six-week phases.

Each phase includes:

  • A portion control eating plan
  • Recommendations for gentle activity and physiotherapist-developed strength, balance and mobility exercises
  • Personalised tracking of symptoms, progress and satisfaction
  • Personal motivation, support and advice via phone, SMS, email, message board and mail.

The program has been successful in helping participants to reduce their weight by an average of 7 per cent. More than 80 per cent of participants finish the program.

HCF is interested in ways to help its members to maintain the weight they have lost after the program finishes.

How is the project addressing the issue?

The project will investigate the effectiveness of a 12-month maintenance program to maintain weight loss that participants achieve during the HWFL program.

The HWFL maintenance program is new, and will commence in July 2017. The program will provide participants with access to an online portal and access to the HWFL team who will provide individualised support to help them maintain weight loss.

While plans for the evaluation study are still being confirmed, at this stage the project team plans to use data collected by HWFL, including weight, waist circumference and dietary and physical activity behaviour, at the start, at 18 weeks, at 36 weeks and at the end of the 12-month program.

Relevance for practice

There is currently little evidence around the maintenance of weight loss after the completion of an evidence-based program. Policy makers may find this information relevant for improving existing weight loss programs.

Private health insurance companies are in a position to provide healthy lifestyle interventions to a large proportion of the population but these interventions need to be evidence based. It is important to develop intervention approaches to weight loss maintenance that are relevant to the Australian health insurance context.

What are the expected outcomes?

The project is expected to show whether a structured maintenance program helps participants of weight loss programs to maintain their weight loss longer term.


Project lead:

Associate Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, The University of Sydney

Project team:

  • Professor Adrian Bauman, The University of Sydney
  • Dr Andrew Cottrill, HCF
  • Dr Anne Grunseit, The University of Sydney
  • Bronwyn McGill, The University of Sydney
  • Dr Blythe O’Hara, The University of Sydney

This project was funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Ministry of Health, ACT Health and the HCF Research Foundation.


NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Government Health, HCF Research Foundation, ACT Government Health, hosted by Sax Institute

  • Recruitment and capturing consent for the evaluation of the Healthy Weight for Life (HWFL) Long-Term Weight Loss Maintenance Program commenced in January 2018
  • Data collection for the independent sub-study of the program commenced in January 2018
  • Mixed methods study published in February 2018



  • World Congress on Public Health, oral presentation: Characteristics of Behavioural Economic Approaches to Promoting Behaviour Change in Lifestyle Interventions Using Financial Incentives. Melbourne, 5 April 2017.
  • International Society of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity. Financial incentives are nice, but may not be enough to motivate weight loss maintenance: findings from a mixed method study of older health insurance members. ISBNPA 2017 Annual Meeting in Victoria, Canada, 8-10 June.
  • Public Health Research Showcaseoral presentation. Financial incentives may not be enough to motivate weight loss maintenance: findings from a mixed method study of older health insurance members. Sydney School of Public Health, 18 July 2017.
  • 3rd Annual CPC EMCR Symposiumposter presentation. Losing weight is do-able, but keeping it off is challenging: can financial incentives help? Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, 5-6 October 2017.
  • 23rd IUHPE World Conference on Health PromotionRound table discussion. The power of partnership in real-world program evaluation: a case study. Rotorua, New Zealand 7-11 April 2019.