New Study Explores Long-Term Maintenance of Successful Weight-loss

Results counter "impossible to keep the weight off" thinking and may offer valuable learnings for successful weight loss

PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new study of individuals seeking to maintain an average weight-loss of 24 lbs, which is published in the April issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, finds 50% were able to maintain a medically significant weight loss 5 years later. The study, which was sponsored by Weight Watchers International, Inc. and conducted by an independent research survey company and researchers from Drexel University, examined weight-loss maintenance of select individuals who reached Lifetime Member status through the widely available, lifestyle-based commercial weight loss program, offered by Weight Watchers. Lifetime Members are individuals who have successfully completed the Weight Watchers program, reached their weight-loss goal, and maintained the goal for a period of 6 weeks.

"With the steady rise in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States and worldwide, more and more individuals are seeking the best ways to lose weight and keep it off, so it's important to examine successful weight loss," explained Dr. Michael Lowe, Professor of Psychology, Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.

One unexpected finding of this study was based on a comparison of the present results with a very similar study that this team published 7 years ago. The current results showed that Lifetime Members maintained their weight losses better than did the Lifetime Members in the 2001 study. These improved results occurred despite the fact that Americans generally continued to gain weight between the first study and the current one.

Study participants were educated about eating healthfully, increasing physical activity, creating and living in a supportive environment conducive to achieving a healthy weight, and managing the challenges involved in changing behaviors, as part of their original participation in Weight Watchers.

"We strive to help our members reach their weight-loss goals and reach lifetime member status, based on the latest scientific thinking and medical research" explained Karen Miller-Kovach, Chief Scientific Officer, Weight Watchers International. "This study, as well as others before it, supports our belief that the four pillars that have the greatest impact on healthy and sustained weight loss are: healthful eating; physical activity; group support; and behavior change."

Study Design

The overwhelming majority of people seeking help with weight loss do so through commercial weight-loss programs such as Weight Watchers, a widely available, lifestyle based weight-loss program.

A total of 699 Lifetime Members of Weight Watchers represented the national sample and 217 additional Lifetime Members served as an oversample. Lifetime Members who had completed the program 1, 2, or 5 years after they had reached their goal weight self-reported their current weight. Additional Lifetime Members served as an oversample whose weights were measured so any bias in self-reported weights could be corrected. The discrepancy between reported and measured weight in the oversample was used to adjust the self-reported weights of the national sample. Seventy-one percent of participants were middle-aged or older and 95.3 % were female; their mean starting body mass index (BMI) was 27.6 kg/m2.

Study Results

Based on the Institute of Medicine criterion for successful weight-loss maintenance of sustaining at least a 5 percent weight loss, the current study found that 79.8%, 71.0%, and 50.0% successfully maintained a weight loss they achieved 1, 2 or 5 years previously, respectively. A sustained weight loss of 5% or greater also produces medially significant improvements in medical conditions, like diabetes, associated with obesity. Therefore, although medical outcomes were not assessed, the weight-maintenance results described here would likely have been associated with important improvements in medical risk factors associated with obesity. The percentage of participants who remained below their goal weight 1, 2 and 5 ears after completion of the program was 26-5, 20-5 and 16-2 respectively.

Results obtained in this study are not directly comparable to those obtained with clinical samples of obese dieters because the current sample comprises the most successful Weight Watchers participants. However, theses results provide further evidence that maintenance of weight loss in those who successfully lose weight in one commercial weight-loss program is more feasible than data from other clinical populations have suggested.

How Weight Watchers Meetings Work

Members attend Meetings once a week for less than an hour. Each week, there is a confidential weigh-in to help track progress. Members learn how to make wise choices, eat healthy and enjoy food and exercise. Every week, new tips and program materials are provided to help Members follow the program. Members enjoy support from Meeting leaders who also lost weight with Weight Watchers, and are trained experts in the program who are committed to the success of each Member. Members also benefit from the exchange of tips, recipes and practical experiences shared by other Members. Members can also sign up for the Internet weight-loss companion for Meetings, Weight Watchers eTools. Anyone who wants to learn more about what Weight Watchers has to offer can visit a participating meeting at any time of the year with no obligation to join.

Weight Watchers affirms that to lose weight safely and sensibly, a person must learn to eat more healthfully, increase physical activity, learn to create and live in a supportive environment conducive to achieving a healthy weight, and manage the challenges involved in changing behaviors.

About Weight Watchers International, Inc.

Weight Watchers International, Inc. is the world's leading provider of weight management services, operating globally through a network of Company-owned and franchise operations. Weight Watchers holds over 50,000 weekly meetings where members receive group support and learn about healthy eating patterns, behavior modification and physical activity. WeightWatchers.com provides innovative, subscription weight management products over the Internet and is the leading Internet-based weight management provider in the world. In addition, Weight Watchers offers a wide range of products, publications and programs for those interested in weight loss and weight control.

For more information, visit the Science Center at www.weightwatchers.com/science

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