Many myths about maintaining weight abound. Understanding some of these myths of maintenance will help you guide your patients.
Myth 1 - To be successful at weight management you have to be thin.
Many people who are successful at losing weight are thinner, not thin. They have dropped their BMI and waist circumference to a safer level. A comfortable body weight is one at which you feel good, given where you’ve been. You have no weight-related medical problems and you don’t have to starve/exercise fanatically to maintain16.
Myth 2 - There is no hope for yo-yo dieters.
Studies have shown that most dieters have been on at least three to five diets. About 90% of the NWCR members lost weight many times before successfully maintaining their weight16.
Myth 3 - Almost nobody who loses weight keeps it off.
The 95% failure rate was based on an old study in 1959. The NWCR shows people maintaining their loss for over seven years. Another study showed over 20% of obese individuals maintained their loss1.
Myth 4 - If you were overweight as a child, it is impossible to lose and keep it off as an adult.
If you look at the NWCR, you will see that most of the participants had childhood obesity. In fact, 46% were overweight by age 11, 25% were overweight by ages 12-18, and 28% overweight by age 189,11.
Myth 5 - To lose weight and keep it off means a lifetime of suffering.
When asked, “Do you feel like you are dieting?” one group of maintainers reported that nine out of ten said “No.” In fact, the overwhelming majority enjoyed food and seven out of ten eat in restaurants greater than one or two times per week. When asked, “How do you handle cravings?” their answer was “Have a little.” This is not about deprivation16 .
Myth 6 - To lose weight and keep it off means a lifetime of deprivation.
About three out of four NWCR members indicated that maintaining is easier or no harder than losing, and two out of three say maintaining is easy or moderately easy. The longer the weight was kept off, the more likely it was to stay off. In fact, maintaining for two to five years decreased the risk of regain by over 50%9,16.
Myth 7 - Exercise is not as important in maintenance.
The opposite is true. Exercise is not as important during the weight loss phase, but it is critical during maintenance. The participants on the NWCR exercise to burn 400 calories per day or 2,800 calories per week. In addition, they keep daily records and weigh themselves weekly, if not daily9,16.
What is NWCR? (National Weight Control Registry)
To understand how people are successful at maintenance, we need to look at a group of “losers.” The best place to look for these losers is the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which was founded in 1993 and is a collaborative venture between James Hill, Ph.D., from the University of Colorado and Rena Wing, Ph.D., from Lifespan, Brown University, and the University of Pittsburgh9.
To qualify for the NWCR, you must be at least 18 years or older and have successfully maintained a 30-pound weight loss for a minimum of one year. To date, there are over 5,000 members who have an average weight loss of about 70 pounds and have maintained it for about seven years9.