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Chances of Keeping off Weight Better than You Might Think

Chances of Keeping off Weight Better than You Might Think: Main Image
Use these ideas to put yourself into the "successful loser" category
It's often said that 95% of people who lose weight will gain it back, and more, within a short time. Where does this figure come from? Is it accurate? The latest answers may give you newfound hope and motivation for making a healthier body weight your top wellness priority.

Weight not regained

Researchers collected weight information from 14,306 adults to study weight loss success, which was defined as keeping the pounds off for a year or more. According to the results published in the International Journal of Obesity, among overweight and obese adults:

  • 36.6% of those who lost at least 5% of initial body weight kept it off
  • 17.3% of those who lost at least 10% of initial body weight kept it off
  • 8.5% of those who lost at least 15% of initial body weight kept it off
  • 4.4% of those who lost at least 20% of initial body weight kept it off

To put this in context, for someone who weighs 200 pounds, 5% weight loss is 10 pounds, 10% is 20 pounds, 15% is 30 pounds, and 20% is 40 pounds. The study found that average weight loss maintained was 42 pounds!

Becoming a successful loser

We may be more successful with weight loss maintenance than previously thought because many studies focus on very obese people (60 or more pounds overweight) who have failed multiple diets. These folks likely don't represent the average American - someone who wants to shed some pounds for better health and makes it a priority.

Use the following ideas to put yourself into the "successful loser" category:

  • Focus on success. Discouraging reports on weight loss failure aren't applicable to everyone. Plenty of people succeed; with the right attitude you can be one of them.
  • Move more. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a study tracking over 5,000 people who've lost significant weight and kept it off for a year or more, shows 94% of successful weight loss maintainers increased physical activity. Walking is the most common type of exercise reported and 90% of people exercise an hour per day on average.
  • Break the fast, turn off the tube. The NWCR shows that 78% of successful weight loss maintainers eat breakfast every day; 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • Harness health goals. Focusing on health, for example lowering blood pressure or cholesterol levels, leads to successful long-term weight loss more often than focusing on cosmetic results, such as fitting into a size 8.
  • Do the diary. Though some people find keeping a food diary an inconvenience, writing down everything you eat for a defined period of time can help avoid "portion creep"--the tendency to eat slightly larger servings of everything over time. Try writing down everything you eat for three to four days each month.
  • Avoid assumptions. Many overweight folks assume their thinner peers are "just lucky," which is rarely true. Many healthy weight folks work at weight management.
  • Weigh in. The NWCR found that weekly weigh-ins are important for successful long-term weight loss for 75% of people.
  • Aim appropriately. Even if you don't reach your "ideal" weight, any weight lost and kept off, even just 10 pounds, can improve health measurably.

(Int J Obesit 2010;34:1644-54; NWCR Facts. Accessed Nov 22, 2010. Available at:

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

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