Achievable Factors that Support Sustainable Weight Loss
A multitude of amazing and idiosyncratic weight loss products, programs and plans are enthusiastically offered to anyone seeking satisfying and continued weight loss. These marvels of mass-reduction come with correspondingly diverse payment plans. Despite their voracious consumption by the public, the question remains: do any of them actually work?
In the 2009-2010 period, Queensland Health identified key health threats to members of the public[1. Queensland Health, 2009-2010 Self-Reported Health Status: Key Findings Fact sheet, Queensland Health, Brisbane, 2011]. The second most common health problem in QLD was reported to be overweight and obese individuals. Being overweight or obese has negative consequences for one’s health which include an increased likelihood of having diabetes and heart disease[2. Wing, R. R., Hill, J. O., 2001, Successful Weight Loss Maintenance, Annual Review of Nutrition, Vol. 21, pp. 323-341]. This is not to mention the corresponding burden on the health system.
In 2001, Rena Wing and James Hill reviewed findings from diverse research literature into weight loss success, exploring characteristics of reported successful and sustained weight loss behaviour. They offered their findings to the public in Successful Weight Loss Maintenance.
Purpose
The purpose of this article is to offer simple and succinct guidelines, derived from Wing and Hill’s research findings, of the achievable factors that allow successful weight loss and the desired maintenance of this success.
The three key factors identified in people who have successfully achieved sustained weight loss are:
·        High levels of self-monitoring (of weight and food intake)
·        High-carbohydrate intake in conjunction with low-fat intake
·        Frequent physical exercise (at least one hour of moderate exercise every day)
An additional factor identified which is important to keep in mind:
·        Longer duration of effort will halve the likelihood of regaining weight.
Brief discussion of success factors
Diet: Despite the carbohydrate:fat ratio being an aspect that helps lead to success, no particular diet program (as a stand-alone weight loss method) has proven to be effective in sustained weight loss. Put more simply, sustainable weight loss cannot be achieved by just dieting.
Self-monitoring: Concerns over the encouragement of frequent self-monitoring of one’s weight have been raised in research[3. Ibid]. This is due to the current prevalence and limited understanding of dangerous eating disorders which mark our society. Research into potential negative effects of increased self-monitoring has been conducted and results indicate the opposite of what might be expected: participating in successful weight-loss programs which involve increased self-monitoring actually correspond with positive psychological benefits, not negative ones[4. Ibid]. Therefore, dieting and the requisite self-monitoring has not shown to cause later eating disorders.
Exercise: If you are seriously seeking sustained weight-loss, it will take tenacity and hard work physically. National guidelines[5. Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults, Australian Government, Department of Health and Aging, ttp://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#guidelines_adults, Page last modified: 01 October, 2010] for adequate weekly physical activity will simply not be enough [6. Wing, R. R., Hill, J. O., 2001, Successful Weight Loss Maintenance, Annual Review of Nutrition, Vol. 21, pp. 323-341]. One hour of moderate exercise a day, wherever you can fit it in, is not open to negotiation. Rather than simply participating in chunks of intentional exercise, the recommendation is a shift to a more physical lifestyle e.g. use stairs, not escalators; don’t park right at the front door, park a little bit down the street (if safe to do so).
Duration of effort: Successful weight loss maintenance of a period exceeding two years halves the chance of regaining the weight after this period. Look forward to that point in your efforts because it will become easier over time.
Conclusion
Society consumes a plethora of the diverse weight loss products available while paradoxically being tacitly pessimistic about the efficacy of such products. Before commencing your weight loss adventure seek information from more than a company’s marketing materials . Your state or local government health department website is a great place to start for the basics. In addition to this, use the summarised information here so you know which factors in your life will help, not hinder, the achievement of your weight loss goals.
Good Luck!
Thomas Mort
Online Advocate/Australian Higher Education/Community Health/Youth Mental Health. Follow me on Twitter @writerinsight

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