Weighty Matters

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Super Dieters and the Other 85%

on January 6, 2014

Have you ever noticed how January is a virtual diet-fest, or is that diet feast, on television? Weight Watchers starts their newest program in January. Talk shows all have stories about diets, getting healthy, all this kind of important stuff. I think it has to do with the whole “new year, new you” approach when the calendar flips over. There was a story recently on Good Morning America about a guy who lost 392 pounds! Today, Dr. Oz devoted a big part of his show to his two week rapid weight loss plan. People Magazine’s current issue profiles people who lost half their body size on various plans, but without bariatric surgery. I’m sure across the various forms of media there have been any number of other stories to help us all lose weight.

Do any of you watch World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer in the evening? I had it on tonight, waiting for their story on Super Dieters. They opened up with a fact that floored me. They said that 85% of people who diet and lose weight, regain the pounds. 85%! As a nation, are we simply doomed to fail?

The news story talked about an organization call the National Weight Control Registry that tracks more than 10,000 people who have lost weight and are succeeding in keeping it off. I went to the website and saw that they operate with an address associated with Brown University and a Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center. They’ve published a number of research papers in what appear to be reputable publications and they post some interesting data gleaned from the participants. For example, here’s one bullet point with some percentages:

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.

Back to the concept of Super Dieters. It appears that World News is going to stretch out the info over multiple nights but tonight they gave the first two tips that I guess are used by a high percentage of the Super Dieters who provide their information to the NWCR. Tip One: Don’t Cheat. By that they explained that the successful maintainers don’t deviate from their plans, not even to treat themselves on holidays. Tip Two: Eat Breakfast.

There are some success stories posted in which people describe how they lost and what they’re doing now. I haven’t read them all but the ones I did seemed infused with strong common sense and knowledge that, at heart, we all really know. Eat fewer calories. Eat better quality food as in fruits and vegetables over sugary junk food snacks, etc. Exercise more.

Oh jeez. Is that all?

Okay, that was cynical. I apologize. I’m harkening back to the fact that I know all of this and it does all make sense. Consume less, burn more. I get it. I’m doing it. What I want to understand is why these people are in the 15% who are able to continue to make these good, positive, successful choices day after day after week after month after year.

I honestly believe that all of us know what it takes. Where we run into trouble is consistently making the healthy, successful choices. That’s what I want to know. Is there research on how one keeps themselves motivated? How one always says “No” to the stuff that isn’t on their plan?

As I approach the two year anniversary of my bariatric surgery, I’m happy that even if I haven’t yet hit goal weight, I continue to live healthy, make better choices, and keep off the weight that I’ve already lost. This is longer than I have maintained an effort ever before. I guess despite my commitment to myself, to my healthy eating, to my consistent exercise, I’m still afraid that one day that motivation switch will have flipped to “off”. To guard against that happening, I want to know more from the people who succeed long term.

I want to be one of the 15%.

3 responses to “Super Dieters and the Other 85%

  1. Hope says:

    From everything that I’ve read, the best way to keep the weight off is to stay active. And you’ve got that going on in spades!

  2. Skye says:

    Interesting to think about. I think my problem is that I have a habit of laziness: I take the quickest, easiest path to satisfying my hunger. I have also developed a pattern of self-indulgence: I deserve this treat! Even though I love my oatmeal with cranberries and almonds in the morning, and I love fruit, and I love having a healthy dinner when I manage to, one with lots of vegies. I need to develop an interest in and love for cooking. I need to adjust my thinking and stay aware of how much I enjoy moving my body and feeling strong and fit. I need to change my thinking.

    I think you have changed your thinking so significantly it would be a huge jolt to you to change it back. I understand the fear of backsliding, and your fear is especially scary. Do you have anyone you call if you are feeling an overwhelming craving for something not on your plan? I’ll bet that would help. Just knowing you can calm someone might even help you step back from the craving. One of my friends gets panic attacks. She knows she can call any one of a set of friends, including me. She IM’d me last night because she was feeling panicky. We chatted online and eventually she felt calm enough to try going to sleep. She said that talking with me helped calm her, and knowing she could call me later helped too. Not feeling alone and trying to deal with an overwhelming feeling alone is very powerful. It would be a good addition to have along with this blog. Just a suggestion.

  3. June says:

    I think this is a very interesting question and one I am asking myself lately. I think it comes down to boredom, at least for me. I made several positive changes in my life a couple of years ago and really got into the spirit of it as a project. I completely changed the way I ate and it didn’t really bother me much. But the whole effort eventually gets tedious. It’s not simply that I crave heavier foods. It’s that I get tired of thinking about, tired of counting and tired of the same old thing. I feel like the challenge is keeping it fresh and interesting. But I am not sure how to do that.

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