After Losing Weight, Many Americans Struggle To Keep The Weight Off

By: Keri Peterson, MD — You’ve done the work, implemented changes in your diet, improved your exercise regimen and have successfully lost weight. Now the real battle begins—how do you successfully keep it off going forward when faced with life’s challenges and stressors? Staying on the health and fitness wagon is no small feat. It requires discipline and commitment every single day. Becoming discouraged during difficult times can create a slippery slope of falling back into old habits.

Stick to it, and don’t give up!

That’s why so many people fail at maintaining their goals once they’ve reached them. In a November 2016 survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Calorie Control Council among over 1,200 U.S. adults who have been trying to lose weight, we asked: “What is the longest length of time you have kept the weight off?” The results were surprising. Only 14 percent of those who have been trying to lose weight say the longest they were able to keep the weight off was more than five years. While 41 percent were able to keep the weight off for two years or more, 40 percent could not maintain their weight loss for two years. One in ten (10%) say the longest they could sustain their weight loss was 3 months or less.

Recognize that Your Diet isn’t the only contributing factor

When looking at some of the factors that may have contributed to successful weight loss for two years or more, several demographic factors came into play. First, Americans ages 18-34 are less likely to have success keeping weight off for that amount of time than their older counterparts age 35 and older (27% vs. 46%)Perhaps this is due to less healthy eating habits that accompany an active social life of going out with friends and dating that frequently occurs in this age group. Social media impacts self-image and can create an unhealthy relationship with food. It could also be that millennials do not have access to a gym, weight loss program or trainer due to financial restraints.

Another factor that came into play was income. Supporting the theory that financial restraints play a role in maintaining weight loss, those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more a year are more likely to have been able to keep the weight off for two years or more compared with sub $50,000 households (47% vs. 37%). Possible explanations include those with a higher income have greater access to gym memberships, personal trainers and healthier fresh food options. Fresh fruits and veggies are more costly than fast food and packaged goods.

Finding time for Nutrition while Parenting

Those with children under 18 living in the household were less likely to have kept the weight off for two years compared to those without kids under 18 at home (36% vs. 44%). As a parent of a three-year-old, I can say that it is much more challenging to find time to prepare healthy meals for myself when I am busy cooking for my child. It is so easy to eat what is leftover on your child’s plate. Plus, you can get so pressed for time that grabbing whatever is in the cupboard that is quick and easy is what becomes most feasible.

In order to maintain weight loss, it is important to select a sustainable nutrition plan that works for you on an ongoing basis – one that fits with your lifestyle, culture and food preferences. Speaking with a nutritionist can put you on the right path to creating an eating plan that is the right fit for you. I do not believe in significant calorie restriction and deprivation. It is important to tailor a program that you like and enjoy and where you do not feel hungry all the time or have constant cravings.

Overall, this survey demonstrates that many Americans who have been trying to lose weight are likely using effective methods to do so.

Survey Method

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Calorie Control Council from November 16-18, 2016 among 2,074 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Stan Samples at the Calorie Control Council, [email protected].

Keri Peterson, MD is a medical contributor and columnist for Women’s Health and a frequent guest on NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News and CNN. Based in New York City, Dr. Peterson has been in private practice since 1999 and holds appointments at Lenox Hill Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center. With a BA from Cornell University and a Medical Degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, she completed post-graduate training in Internal Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center and is board certified in Internal Medicine. Dr. Peterson is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association, and serves as a medical advisor for the Calorie Control Council.

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