Understanding of the likelihood of success is
a key element in making informed choices from among the dietary, exercise, and
behavioral options for weight loss.
For most weight loss methods, there are few scientific studies evaluating
their effectiveness and safety. The available studies indicate that persons
lose weight while participating in such programs but, after completing the program,
tend to regain the weight over time. Further, there are examples where weight
loss strategies have caused medical harm. Before
individuals adopt any weight loss program, the scientific data on effectiveness
and safety be examined. If no data exist, the program should
not be used. The lack of data on many commercial programs advertised for weight
loss is especially disconcerting in view of the large number of Americans trying
to lose weight and the over $30 billion spent yearly in America on weight loss
efforts. Some research data and considerable anecdotal information support successful
short-term loss for some users of these programs; however, data are limited
on the proportion of persons who complete programs, how much weight they lose,
and their success in maintaining the weight loss.
in response exists within each of the broad categories of weight loss strategies.
Success rates can be expected to vary according to initial weight, the length
of the treatment period, the magnitude of weight loss desired, and the motivation
for wanting to lose weight. The effectiveness of unsupervised efforts to lose
weight is difficult to judge because of limited data on strategies, compliance,
and follow-up. Surveys indicate that many overweight persons have tried to lose
weight on multiple occasions; because many of these persons presumably are using
these unsupervised strategies, their long-term success rates may be low.
successful programs are those based on realistic goals that involve a caloric
deficit leading to a slow, steady weight loss. Success requires a diet that
can be adhered to long enough to reach the goal. Developing new dietary practices
that could lead to a lifetime of weight control is also important. Other attributes
of successful programs involve preparing to deal with high-risk emotional
and social situations, self-monitor progress, solve problems, reduce stress,
and maintain continual professional contact. Barriers to success include lack
of feelings of self-efficacy, failure to lose weight early, premature termination
of diet modifications or exercise or both, and lack of social and professional
support. Serious underlying social or psychological problems such as depression
also can be barriers to success.
adapted from the National Institutes of Health, Office of Medical Applications of Research.