1.3 The National Weight Control Registry

Con­sid­er the po­si­tion of weight loss re­searchers in the ear­ly 1990s. They saw that most peo­ple who lost weight gained it back. They want­ed to find out how weight loss could be main­tained. How could they pro­ceed?

One ap­proach would be to so­lic­it peo­ple who have lost weight and kept it off. Th­ese peo­ple would be asked to de­scribe their lifestyles. The re­sults of the ques­tion­naires would be col­lat­ed and ex­am­ined to see if there were any sim­i­lar­i­ties in the meth­ods.

This is ex­act­ly what Doc­tors Rena Wing and James Hill did, start­ing in 1994. They es­tab­lished the Na­tion­al Weight Con­trol Registry (NWCR). In­di­vid­u­als who had lost at least 30 lb., and kept it off for at least a year, were in­vit­ed to sign up and fill out de­tailed ques­tion­naires. This data was an­a­lyzed and the re­sults were sum­ma­rized.

Doc­tors Wing and Hill found that the ways NWCR par­tic­i­pants lost weight were var­ied. Some joined for­mal pro­grams, some did it on their own. A va­ri­ety of di­ets were used in­clud­ing: re­strict­ing cer­tain foods, count­ing calo­ries or grams of fat, liq­uid di­ets, and ex­change di­ets.

But what was re­mark­able was that most par­tic­i­pants used both diet and ex­er­cise to main­tain their re­duced weight.

Here is a quote from a 2003 ar­ti­cle by Doc­tors Wing and Hill:

We could iden­ti­fy few com­mon­ly shared fea­tures of how these peo­ple lost weight. The only com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tic was that 89% of reg­istry par­tic­i­pants used both diet and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty to lose weight: only 10% used diet alone, and 1% used ex­er­cise alone. This find­ing is very im­por­tant be­cause most weight loss pro­grams fo­cus pri­mar­i­ly on di­etary re­stric­tion.

The char­ac­ter­is­tics that were com­mon to those who suc­cess­ful­ly main­tained a low weight were that they:

  • adopted a low fat, high complex carbohydrate diet
  • exercised regularly
  • ate breakfast almost every day
  • tracked their weight frequently

The first two of these ideas are the core of the SWLL.

The main find­ing from the NWCR was that diet alone is not suf­fi­cient for most peo­ple to achieve sus­tain­able weight loss.

The method that works is a com­bi­na­tion of mod­er­ate in­ges­tion of food and drink, aer­o­bic ex­er­cise and strength train­ing, and build­ing more ac­tiv­i­ty into your dai­ly life. This is the foun­da­tion for the SWLL.

To learn about the NWCR vis­it http://www.nwcr.ws. Also PMID 9250100.

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