Characteristics of Successful
RENA R. WING
Long-term maintenance of weight loss is clearly difficult to accomplish. However, some individuals are successful in losing weight and maintaining the loss over the long term. This chapter reviews the research on the prevalence of weight loss maintenance and the characteristics of individuals who have achieved it.
Few studies have assessed the prevalence of weight loss maintenance. Currently, there is no accepted criterion for successful maintenance (how much weight must be lost and how long it must be maintained).
In 1959, Stunkard and McLaren-Hume concluded that < 5% of obese individuals are able to lose weight and maintain it. This pessimistic conclusion, derived from a sample of 100 patients, was based on only one weight loss attempt. Other investigators, reporting results in clinical treatment programs, have found that 13–22% of individuals maintain a weight loss of ≥ 5 kg at 5 years.
Estimates of maintenance have also been made from community samples. Recently, researchers used a random-digit dial telephone survey to determine the point prevalence of weight loss maintenance in a nationally representative sample of 500 adults in the United States. Maintainers were defined as those who, at the time of the survey, had maintained for at least 1 year a weight loss of ≥ 10% of their maximum adult weight. Fourteen percent of the sample as a whole and 21% of those with a history of obesity were currently 10% below their highest weight, had reduced intentionally, and had maintained a 10% weight loss for at least 1 year. These data contrast the belief that no one ever succeeds at weight loss maintenance.