weight management

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Effective Weight Management

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.

Considerable diversity 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.

In general, 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.

last update: February 2009

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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