Think Diets Don’t Work? Think Again

Claims that “diets don’t work” are based on the assumption that any weight lost is simply gained back quickly.

The Endocrine Society met in Toronto in June of 2007.  Experts presented data on maintenance of weight loss by overweight people.  What percentage of people who lost 10% of their weight kept the weight off for one year?  About 20%.  Not great, but better than many would expect.  That’s a 200-pounder losing down to 180 and staying at 180 pounds for a year.  This degree of weight loss will improve many cases of high blood pressure, knee arthritis, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports even better data.  Almost 60% of 1,310  people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who lost 10% of body weight maintained 95% of the loss for one year.

How do they keep the weight off?  Characteristics of “successful losers” include a low-calorie diet (probably 1,6oo-1,800 on average), weighing at least once per week, and burning about 2,600 calories per week in physical activity.  (A 150-pound person expends 1260 calories a week by walking 3-4 mph for 30 minutes daily.)

Many successful losers cycle through weight loss and gain several times before determining which combination of diet and physical activity ultimately works for them.

So don’t give up!

Steve Parker, M.D,


McGuire, M.T., et al.  International Journal of Obesity, 23[12] (1999): 1,314-1,319.

Weiss, E.C., et al.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 33[1] (2007): 34-40.

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