Doctors at Duke University are trying a new approaching in fighting the obesity epidemic. Instead of advising patients to lose the excess pounds, they re recommending patients maintain their current weight.

African-American women are at the highest risk for obesity.

Despite this, they're not as likely as other overweight people to develop complications like heart disease and diabetes, as long as they don't become morbidly obese.

So if a woman can maintain her weight and stay at a lower level of obesity many of those later life health risks will be offset and their risk will be reduced, explained Dr. Gary G. Bennett, Director of the Duke University Obesity Prevention Program.

Doctors are Duke University are encouraging overweight black women to maintain and not gain. In the new study, researchers divided nearly 200 overweight or obese black women into two groups. One was enrolled into Duke's Shape program, where they are given a health coach and a gym membership. The other group met with a doctor to discuss weight loss.

Tonia Johnson was in the shape program.

Instead of eating Cheetos and a Pepsi, at work, I would buy my vegetable chips and try to drink water, she said.

Doctors explain maintaining weight is easier than trying to lose it. You only need to cut 100 to 200 calories a day.

So that's usually for most people not consuming a bottle of soda or not having a few extra cookies after dinner, Dr. Bennett said.

The women in the other group gained about eleven pounds over three years, while a majority of those in the program stayed steady on the scale or even lost weight.

I know I lost at least 10 pounds just doing that, and I didn t do anything extra special, said Johnson.

Although the study focused on overweight African-American women, researchers say preventing weight gain is important for anyone who is obese.

Duke researchers want to find out whether maintaining weight can lead to a lower risk for stroke and heart attack.

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