Programs Don’t Work
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. |
December 29, 2004
This was the
headline in many major newspapers and internet news websites this week.
(Provocative headlines seem to entice people to read articles, so I decided
to start this Newsletter the same way.) The reason for the stories was a
study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that reviewed 10
weight loss programs (1). Let me state that whether this study was published
or not, I agree with the headline. Before you think I’ve lost my mind as the
author of several weight loss programs, read on--first about the study, then
about why I agree with the headline.
The researchers at the University of Pennsylvania examined 10
well-recognized weight loss programs available in the United States. They
examined the claims the companies made about the ability of the program to
help people successfully lose weight and then keep it off. They also
examined the science behind the program and the qualifications of staff. Lo
and behold, they found that with the exception of Weight Watchers, there was
not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of the programs examined.
The researchers recommended companies conduct research to support their
There were no real surprises in what they found. The researchers
acknowledged in press interviews that there is no evidence that any weight
loss program works. In my opinion, there never will be. Why? It’s too
expensive a study for a company to conduct: it would take a minimum of five
years to prove efficacy, and the return on investment isn’t worth it. It’s
easier to spend the dollars on advertising.
I can’t say I disagree. Think about it: if you heard that a program was the
only scientifically proven method to lose weight and keep it off, would that
make you buy it? I don’t think so--not when you find out the only real way
to do that is to eat less and exercise more for the rest of your life. Most
people want a quick fix, and it just doesn’t exist--and that’s the merit of
The reason that I say that every weight loss program is a failure is because
they can help people lose weight, but they can’t really help them maintain
it--not unless the program focuses on permanent lifestyle changes based on
the best of what science has shown. Is there science to support this
approach? Yes, from the National Weight Control Registry, an on-going study
of people who have lost 30 pounds or more and maintained it (2). There are
at least three components that these successful losers share, whether they
lost weight on a program or on their own:
To have a chance to be successful as a long-term solution, a weight loss
program must focus on those lifestyle changes.
- They exercise almost every day.
- They eat fewer total calories.
- They eat less fat.
Those are the components that we included in the 30 Day Plan. We
teach you how to change your lifestyle in 30 days. You also have the
advantage of knowing that Better Life will be there twice a week with e-mail
Bulletins that support your efforts.
Will you master your new lifestyle completely in 30 days? Probably not, but
you can try again and again. Our goal is to have you change 10% of your
habits each time you go through the 30 Day Plan. Within a year, you
will have lost the weight you want to lose, and you’ll be able to maintain
your lower weight because your lifestyle will be different.
Make 2005 the year you change your life for the better by losing weight and
getting fit. Whether you use the 30 Day Plan or another program,
the return on your time and the effort to change your lifestyle is well
worth the investment.
- Wadden, T., et al. Annals of Internal Medicine: December 28 2004;
Volume 141 Issue 13.
- Wing RR Successful weight loss maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr.