We are an overweight nation that needs to lose weight to improve our health, but why try if “95 percent of dieters regain the weight lost”?
This disheartening myth is plastered all over the Internet. It is based on a small number of unrealistic diet studies done in a hospital or university setting that attract participants not reflective of the general population.
But a unique research study of Average Joes has encouraging news: People do lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off.
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) was established in 1994 to unravel the secrets of successful weight loss. It is the brain-child of two researchers – Rena Wing, Ph.D, from Brown Medical School, and James O. Hill, Ph.D, from the University of Colorado. Today, NWCR is the largest prospective study of long-term successful weight loss maintenance, tracking more than 5,000 people. Participants have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for 5 1 /2 years.
To enroll in the NWCR, participants must have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year. Researchers track participants’ success at keeping weight off over time. These “successful losers” are not research subjects drinking low-calorie shakes in a lab. They are people who have found ways to keep off hundreds of pounds in their real-life situations, and we all could learn from them. For true inspiration, check out the success stories on the NWCR website.
One of the most important findings is that dieting alone does not lead to success in keeping weight off; it is essential to adopt an exercise routine and stick with it for life. Health care professionals, books, magazines and websites tend to miss the boat on this and emphasize dieting. While changing eating habits is necessary, the message needs to be loud and clear: You must also exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
Here are some interesting facts from the NWCR:
Weight losses have ranged from 30 to 300 pounds.
Some people have lost weight fast, others have lost weight over many years.
The average woman is 45 years old and weighs 145 pounds.
The average man is 49 years old and weighs 190 pounds.
98% of participants modified their food intake in some way to lose weight, but how they did it was not consistent; individuals found what worked for them.
55% received some sort of help to change their eating routine.
94% increased their physical activity; most walked.
How do they keep weight off? The majority continue to maintain a healthy diet and do high levels of activity.
78% eat breakfast every day
75% weigh themselves at least once per week
62% watch fewer than 10 hours of TV per week
90% exercise, on average, one hour per day
Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at www.wickedgoodhealth.com.
This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet.