Many Americans do maintain weight loss
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Though dieters often see their weight "yo-yo," a new national survey suggests that many Americans do fairly well at keeping the pounds off.
Government researchers found that of 1,310 U.S. adults who'd ever lost a substantial amount of weight, the majority had managed to keep at least some of the weight off.
Overall, 59 percent were still close to their weight of a year before -- which in all cases was at least 10 percent lower than their heaviest all-time weight. Another 8 percent weighed less than they did a year earlier.
However, one third of the subjects had regained a significant amount of weight over the year, the researchers report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Lost pounds are notorious for finding their way back again. So it's "encouraging" to see that so many people in this study were keeping their weight stable, lead study author Dr. Edward Weiss told Reuters Health.
Still, weight maintenance remains a "challenge" in a culture that encourages sitting and eating, according to Weiss and his colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Several past studies have shown that overweight people in clinical weight-loss programs regain the weight when the program ends. Individuals treated with lifestyle modification, like calorie-cutting and exercise, generally regain about one third of their lost weight over the next year. By the fifth year, they've regained most of the weight, on average.
But much of the research on weight regain has focused on people in clinical weight-loss programs. To get a better idea of how the average American fares, Weiss's team used data from a federal health survey that questioned a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.
The researchers focused on 1,310 men and women who, 1 year before the survey, weighed at least 10 percent less than their all-time high. They then compared respondents' current weight with their weight 1 year earlier.
While relatively few people kept losing weight over the year, the study found, a majority managed to stay within 5 percent of their weight from the year before.
Exercise seemed to be one of the factors that separated the regainers from the maintainers. The odds of weight regain were twice as high among sedentary men and women than among those who met public health recommendations for exercise -- moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day on most, and preferably all, days of the week.
The risk also climbed in tandem with the number of hours survey respondents spent in front of the TV or computer each day.
Exercise, Weiss said, has consistently been associated with long-term weight-loss maintenance. So staying active after the pounds are off may be one key to keeping them off.
But he pointed out that exercise has to be accompanied by continuing calorie control.
It's also important for people to focus on more than the number on the scale, according to the researcher. Even if the weight loss is not as substantial as you'd like, eating well and exercising will bring significant health benefits, like lower risks of diabetes and heart disease.
SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, July 2007.