Weight Loss 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 claims.

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 study.

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:
  1. They exercise almost every day.
  2. They eat fewer total calories.
  3. They eat less fat.
To have a chance to be successful as a long-term solution, a weight loss program must focus on those lifestyle changes.

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.

References:
  1. Wadden, T., et al. Annals of Internal Medicine: December 28 2004; Volume 141 Issue 13.
  2. Wing RR Successful weight loss maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2001;21:323-41.
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