Michael Castleman

More than half of Americans are overweight, and most people who diet regain what they’ve lost -- fueling a belief that it’s nearly impossible to lose weight permanently. But this simply isn't true! To prove it, two researchers decided to investigate the fraction of folks who lose weight and keep it off successfully. “We figured it made more sense to study success than failure,” says James Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

In 1994, Hill and psychologist Rena Wing of Brown University began collecting weight-loss success stories, hoping to find patterns that would help others succeed. Over the past 16 years, their National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) has collected some 6,500 stories of long-term weight-loss success. The average registrant has lost 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years. What's more, their experiences have poked holes in many weight-loss myths.

So if the following beliefs have been weighing you down, take heart. You can overcome them, because they're simply not true!

Weight-loss Myth No. 1: If your parents were overweight, you’re genetically fated to be fat.

Most NWCR participants had at least one obese parent, yet they succeeded in losing weight. “An obese parent is definitely a risk factor for obesity,” explains Hill, “but it doesn’t doom you to being fat.”

Weight-loss Myth No. 2: If you were fat as a child, you’ll be an obese adult.

Half of NWCR participants were overweight as children, yet they succeeded in losing weight and keeping it off.

Weight-loss Myth No. 3: If you've failed at weight loss in the past, you'll never succeed in the future.

More than 90 percent of NWCR participants dieted unsuccessfully for years before losing weight for good. “Weight control is a learning process,” Hill explains. “People are overwhelmed by hype for various weight-loss plans. They try what sounds easiest, lose a little, regain and feel they’ve failed. But they haven’t failed. They’re learning by trial and error. Over time, they figure out what works for them.”

Weight-loss Myth No. 4: If you want to lose weight, you can’t snack.

NWCR members snack between meals. But they avoid high-fat, high-calorie snacks.

Weight-loss Myth No. 5: Eating out and losing weight don't mix.

NWCR participants eat out two to three times a week, but usually avoid fast-food places.

Weight-loss Myth No. 6: The best motivator for losing weight is a special occasion, like a wedding or high school reunion.

When NWCR members finally succeeded in losing weight, they did it not for any specific occasion, but for themselves -- to feel healthier and better about themselves.

Weight-loss Myth No. 7: Losing weight is hard, but keeping it off is harder.

While that’s true for some, 42 percent of NWCR participants say keeping it off is easier. The riskiest period for weight regain is the first two years after losing.


How to lose weight and keep it off:

NWCR members lost weight in many ways: low-calorie or low-carb diets, Weight Watchers, you name it. What do they have in common? They all keep it off by:

- Embracing low-calorie eating

- Exercising daily (most take walks)

- Cutting back on television (instead of watching TV, they walk)

- Eating breakfast

- Weighing themselves often, usually daily

An added bonus:

Compared with typical Americans, NWCR participants have lower rates of depression and emotional distress. “One message comes through loud and clear,” Hill says. "People who succeed at losing weight and keeping it off feel better about themselves.”


Michael Castlemanhas been called "one of the nation's leading health writers" (Library Journal). He is the author of 11 consumer health books and more than 1,500 health articles for magazines and the Web.


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Health - 7 Shocking Weight-loss Myths