There are a lot of fad diets, liquid diets, fat burning pills and weight loss supplements on the market. For many people trying to lose weight, it’s hard to figure out what works and what doesn’t. A new study seeking a definitive answer to that question found the most successful dieters joined weight loss plans like Medifast that held them accountable for eating less and exercising more.
Choosing the right strategy
More than a third of Americans are obese and the U.S. obesity rate is increasing. Many obese people who have failed to lose weight with fad diets and diet drugs think their effort has been futile. But a weight loss study conducted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston suggests anyone committed to lose weight can do so if they choose the right strategy.
The researchers looked at data on about 4,000 obese Americans aged 20 and older who were participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. Their study, published online in the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine,” focused on data from those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, the BMI obesity threshold.
Weight loss: what works
More than 2,500 of the participants (about 63 percent) said they had tried to lose weight in the past year. Of those trying to lose weight, about 1,000 (40 percent) said they lost 5 percent or more of their body weight—the minimum amount of weight loss to produce tangible health benefits, such as lower blood pressure. More than 500 (20 percent) said they lost 10 percent or more.
The researchers said they were surprised that so many dieters were successful, given the perception that obese people can’t lose weight. Participants who lost 5 percent of their body weight simply ate less fat and exercised more. Some used prescription weight loss drugs. The main difference between the 5 percent group and those who lost 10 percent of their body weight was participation in a weight loss program such as Medifast.
Weight loss: what doesn’t work
The unsuccessful dieters in the study reported going on liquid diets, taking nonprescription weight loss pills and eating products in the supermarket labeled as diet foods. Lead researcher Dr. Jacinda Nicklas described a “halo effect” that may occur when a product is labeled as a diet food. People think that eating it will make them lose weight, so they end up eating a lot more than they should.
Commitment and accountability
The study supports the fact there is no evidence products advertised over the Internet promising quick and easy weight loss actually work. That’s why researchers said a dieter’s commitment to losing weight was just as important as strategy. Weight loss programs such as Medifast produced the best results by giving people accountability, asking them to make a commitment to gradual change and helping them accept that quick fixes will never work.