The long-term National Weight Loss Registry project in the US tracks individuals who have lost at least 30 lb and kept it off for at least a year. The following characteristics have been identified in these "weight maintainers":
- 80% of persons in the registry are women and 20% are men.
- The "average" woman is 45 years of age and currently weighs 145 lbs, while the "average" man is 49 years of age and currently weighs 190 lbs.
- Registry members have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off for 5.5 years.
These averages, however, hide a lot of diversity:
- Weight losses have ranged from 30 to 300 lbs.
- Duration of successful weight loss has ranged from 1 year to 66 years!
- Some have lost the weight rapidly, while others have lost weight very slowly--over as many as 14 years.
We have also started to learn about how the weight loss was accomplished: 45% of registry participants lost the weight on their own and the other 55% lost weight with the help of some type of program.
- 98% of Registry participants report that they modified their food intake in some way to lose weight.
- 94% increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking.
There is variety in how NWCR members keep the weight off. Most report continuing to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity.
- 78% eat breakfast every day.
- 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
- 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
- 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.
Bear in mind that losing just 5-10% of one's body weight can lead to massive reductions in the risk of developing lifestyle diseases: A 10- to 20-pound weight loss often improves blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Adults with impaired glucose tolerance (metabolic syndrome) receiving an intensive lifestyle intervention had a 16% reduction in risk for developing diabetes for every kilogram of weight loss, independent of diet and physical activity. Weight loss has a similar effect on the risk for developing hypertension. In another observational study, a Framingham Study cohort composed of overweight, middle-aged adults without hypertension, found that a moderate weight loss of 15 pounds or more reduced the long-term risk of developing hypertension by 28%. Furthermore, in a clinical study of individuals with metabolic syndrome, weight reduction was shown to reduce elevated triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, serum glucose, and total cholesterol.
Bearing the above research findings in mind, weight loss does not need to be substantial to improve health outcomes.
It is helpful to learn about how others have accomplished long-term weight loss, and use this information to inform our own behavior. As well, setting realistic goals improves long term motivation - knowing that these realistic goals may have a substantial impact on our health is motivating in and of itself.
Centres for Disease Control, US Government retrieved Oct 25, 2016. Can lifestyle modifications using therapeutic lifestyle change (TLC) reduce weight and the risk of chronic disease?
National Weight Control Registry website, retreived Oct 25, 2016. nwcr.ws.