Study of 10,000 Patients Shows How to Maintain Weight Loss

Keeping the pounds off is more difficult than shedding them. Here are the most successful ways to do it.

How many times have patients expressed that they want or need to lose weight, but they are frustrated and feel hopeless or overwhelmed by their lack of success? With all the celebrity experts, fad diets, meal replacement systems, and weight loss supplements out there, it is no wonder that there is a lot of confusion about what actually works.

So, what are the key habits and top characteristics adopted by those who have not just lost weight but been able to keep it off for sustained periods?

There is a continuing study of adults who have maintained weight loss of at least 30 pounds for a year to identify strategies for what they do and how they do it and offer insight to others looking to not just lose weight but keep it off for good.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) began in 1994, initiated by Dr. James O. Hill, Ph.D., from the University of Colorado, and Rena Wing, Ph.D., from Brown Medical School. The NWCR is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance ever to have been conducted.

This was created because there was an unmet need of many people looking and needing to lose weight, but so few who had been able to successfully maintain that weight loss. The study was created to identify and investigate the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss.

The NWCR is tracking more than 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods. Annual follow-up surveys and detailed questionnaires are used to examine the behavioral and psychological characteristics and strategies of those who have maintained weight loss.

The NWCR comprises 80% women and 20% men. The average woman in the study is 45 and weighs 145 lbs., while the average man is 49 and weighs 190 lbs. Registry members have lost an average 66 lbs. and kept it off for 5 and a half years.

Those are the averages, however. Study participants have lost between 30 and 300 lbs., and the duration of the time the participants have kept the weight off range from 1 to 66 years. Some have lost the weight rapidly, while others have lost it very slowly, over as many as 14 years. And 45% of registry participants lost the weight on their own, while the other 55% lost weight with the help of a program.

So, what are the effective behaviors and strategies these people have adopted? Most maintain a low-calorie, low-fat diet and engage in high levels of activity. Here are the other top traits:

  • 98% of registry participants report that they modified their food intake in some way.
  • 94% increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of exercise being walking.
  • 90% exercise, on average, for about 1 hour per day.
  • 78% eat breakfast every day.
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of television per week.

One of the best strategies to accomplish any goal is to find a mentor, see what they did that allowed them to achieve the goal, and mimic their strategy. What better source than a collective review of more than 10,000 people who had the same goal: lose weight and keep it off. Everyone is unique and has different specific requirements based on several factors, but the key behaviors outlined by the NWCR can be adopted and successfully implemented by almost anyone looking to lose weight. Always get approval from a medical professional prior to engaging in any new exercise, nutrition, or weight loss program. Click here for more information or follow @thefitpharmacist on Instagram.


The National Weight Control Registry. Accessed April 18, 2018.

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