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Why Can't You Lose Weight?



You've probably heard all of the depressing statistics:

  • As of 2004, one-third of Americans are overweight
  • Another one-third are obese
  • Almost 5% of Americans are extremely obese
  • At least one-third of Americans are trying to lose weight at any one time
  • Of those who do lose weight, 80% gain it back
  • Half of those who do regain the weight gain it back within a year.

The media abounds with weight loss programs, fad diets, and lose-weight-fast schemes.

The question is, when it comes to weight loss programs, what helps a person be successful in losing weight and keeping it off? Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Obesity/Nutrition Research Center tried to find out by sending questionnaires to 110 people who had contacted their center to sign up for weight loss treatment (J Am Diet Assoc 2008;108(4):640-647).

They asked questions about the weight-loss programs the subjects had tried in the past, including questions on the types of programs they had followed and whether they felt confident that they really could change their eating habit. The most interesting part is that it also included questions about barriers to weight loss, like feeling deprived, cost of food, not convenient to follow the plan when they went out, and lack of support from the family.

The researchers found that 30% of the subjects listed "doing it on their own by independently changing eating and exercise behavior" as their favorite method of weight loss, while 24% preferred to use commercial programs like Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig. The best programs, the respondents said, offered quick results, required “reasonable” lifestyle changes, gave them a sense of control over the process, and were flexible.

And the interesting part? The number one barrier to weight loss was that it was hard to make changes to their lifestyle - or to maintain those changes. Second? No time. Third and fourth were "lack of support" and "feeling deprived."

One of the scientists' conclusions is that people have more confidence in the diet program than in their ability to start that program and keep with it. The subjects also listed certain qualities that they wanted in their diet program, but the programs they said they actually used didn't have those qualities.

What this means for you

Forget dieting. Just eat healthy. Healthy eating isn't a diet. Let me repeat that: healthy eating is NOT a diet. It's simply eating the best food you can: fresh, clean, and in moderate amounts. The best way to start eating healthier is just to do that: just start. Make one better choice today. Get wheat bread instead of white. Eat half of the restaurant meal and take the rest home for lunch tomorrow. Take an apple with you for your snack instead of heading to the vending machine. These and other small changes are the real key to eating healthy.

First posted: July 30, 2008