Weight Loss
Despite what some fad diets claim, there are no quick fixes for long-term weight-loss. People who are successful tend to choose healthier foods, control portion sizes, and move more. Putting these behaviors into practice can be hard, but those who have achieved long-term weight loss attest that it's worth it.
Portion Distortion in Snack Foods

What Works for Successful Weight Loss

The term "energy balance" refers to the balance between the energy (calories) you take in through foods and drinks and the energy you burn. When your body is in positive energy balance, you are taking in more calories than you are burning. Your body stores extra energy as fat. When you take in less energy than you burn, your body is in negative energy balance, and your body burns fat for fuel.

Most effective weight loss plans include changes to both diet and physical activity to achieve negative energy balance. Having an imbalance of 500 to 1,000 calories per day can lead to weight loss of about 1 to 2 pounds per week.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which started in 1994, tracks more than 10,000 people who have lost weight and kept it off. NWCR members have lost between 30 and 300 pounds and maintained that weight loss for at least one year.

Key NWCR Findings:205

  • 45% of NWCR members lost weight on their own, while 55% lost weight with the help of a weight loss program.
    • Some members lost weight rapidly; others have taken over 14 years to lose it.
  • 98% of NWCR members changed their diet to lose weight.
  • 94% of NWCR members increased their physical activity to lose weight.
    • The most frequently reported form of physical activity was walking.
  • To keep the weight off, most members report continuing a low-calorie diet and doing high levels of activity. They also report:
    • Eating breakfast every day
    • Weighing themselves at least once a week
    • Watching less than 10 hours of TV a week
    • Exercising about 1 hour a day

Fad Diets

The recipe for success in losing weight is clear: eat less and move more. Still, every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on weight loss products that promise unrealistic quick fixes. Some fad diets may lead to weight loss at first, often due to losses of body water or muscle. In the long run, these plans do NOT work, and they may deprive the body of nutrients it needs. Those who do lose weight with such diets tend to gain it back—often along with extra pounds—within a few years.

To help you identify fad diets, be skeptical of those that:

  • Promise weight loss of more than 1 to 2 pounds per week
  • Promise that you do not need to exercise
  • Exclude any food groups completely
  • Tell you to consume one or only a few food groups exclusively
  • Require you to purchase pills, bars, shakes, or other "diet" foods
  • Claim that consuming specific foods or food combinations will lead to weight loss
  • Rely on personal testimonials instead of scientific evidence

Weight Loss Surgery

Weight Loss Surgery is an option for those who are severely obese, at a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 40, or greater than 35 with obesity-related health problems and have a history of multiple failed attempts at losing weight. The two most common types of weight loss surgery include the adjustable gastric band and the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

Adjustable Gastric Band

In this surgery, a band is placed around the top of the stomach. This makes the upper portion of the stomach very small, so the person gets fuller faster. Food also takes longer to reach the lower part of the stomach, so it gets digested more slowly. The band can be tightened over time to further restrict the size of stomach pouch.

Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

This surgery makes the stomach smaller by creating a small upper pouch only about the size of a walnut. The surgeon connects the intestine directly to the pouch. The person feels fuller faster. In addition, some calories are not absorbed. This surgery usually leads to more rapid weight loss than the gastric band procedure. Because it changes how food is absorbed, it can prevent people from getting enough vitamins and minerals.

People who have weight loss surgery may lose weight quickly, but they must follow a strict diet and exercise plan to prevent regaining lost weight. Also, the surgery has significant risks, including severe infections and blood clots. These procedures are only used after extensive discussion with medical professionals.

Community Approach to Weight Loss

Studies suggest that obesity isn't simply the result of an individual's choices. Social and environmental factors, which strongly influence what we eat and how we move, play equally important roles. In fact, some studies suggest that obesity may move through social networks, like families, groups of friends, or co-workers101.

We may be able to harness these same social networks to support weight loss and weight maintenance. If you're motivated to lose weight, building supportive social networks and healthy environments may help you succeed. Here are some ideas:

  • Change the food and physical activity environment for your family
    • Try to keep sugary drinks and highly processed foods out of your home
    • Keep fruits and vegetables handy
  • Work to change the food and physical activity environment at your workplace or in your child's school
    • Start a walking club at your workplace
    • Motivate co-workers to pack their lunches and eat together
    • Help to start a walk-to-school program at your child's school
  • Work to improve the food and physical activity environment in your community
    • Help to make your community more bike friendly
    • Organize a walking group in your community

Finding Motivation to Lose Weight

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help protect you from various diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. But there are many other ways in which losing weight can help improve your quality of life and enable you to do things you enjoy. What motivates you?

  • Playing with your children or grandchildren
  • Getting off medication
  • Being able to play a sport you love
  • Fitting into your favorite jeans
  • Traveling more comfortably
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