Maintaining Weight: Find Someone To Talk To

By Jim F

New research into weight maintenance shows some (slightly) promising results.

After 30 months – the majority of participants were able to keep their weight below the initial level. Maintaining weight loss is not a popular topic. Books sell much better if you can claim “10 pounds in 4 weeks”. However most research into long-term weight maintenance shows a very depressing outcome – many many people rebound and end up worse than when they started – lending credence to the statement: “Diets don’t work”.

The full text of this research is available.

The short story is that just over 1,000 individuals were monitored.

  • They went on a weight loss program for 6 months and lost 8.5kg / 18.7 lbs.
  • Researchers carried on weighing them for another two and a half years.
  • Participants were split into three groups; one group was left to their own devices (self-directed). One group used a web site to track their changes. The third group had personal contact:

The personal-contact intervention consisted of a case management approach with monthly person-to-person guidance and support. Participants had telephone contact with an interventionist for 5 to 15 minutes each month,

In terms of regain, the personal-contact group were the winners – regaining 8.8 lbs.

  • The group using a web site regained 11.5 lbs.
  • The control group regained 12.1 lbs.

If you’re curious about the website model:

Interactive features allowed participants to set personal goals and action plans for the next week and to graph personal data over time. Modules addressed problem solving and motivation, and a bulletin board facilitated social support but did not provide in-person counseling.

Nothing beats having a “buddy” or close-knit supporters that you can call on for help, motivation, or simply someone who will listen.


  1. bobbie

    I am looking for support and info.
    Just lost 40 lbs… for about the 6th time in the last 25 years. ( I am 50 years old, 5’8″ and 145 lbs.)
    I am the classic yoyo dieter. Food for me is about celebration. I was a restaurant chef for 10 years. I love to cook and to eat. I use food as a reward. I will not eat from noon until I get home at 10 PM just so I can enjoy my ‘dinner’ at my leisure. eating is not for fuel… it is an event.
    I quit drinking when i started dieting ( jan 1) and I really miss it.
    I have had one binge- at Easter- and spent the whole week eating and drinking and gained 7 lbs! now I have lost it again, but I am afraid to allow my self even one slip up for fear of really losing it ….
    we have graduations and weddings and other celebrations coming up and I know that I will be so uncomfortable, not allowing myself to eat… or feeling guilty when I do indulge in a dessert or glass of wine. How do I find the BALANCE????? i fear that my metabolism is so compromised that if I even LOOK at a brownie or glass of wine, I will gain weight!
    I exercise 6 days a week ( run 4 miles or spin at the gym) and eat about 1200-1500 calories a day. I eat GIANT salads with ff dressing and 5 oz protein for lunch, oatmeal every morning, and dinner with some kind of protein, veggie and more salad. 8 glasses of water a day and coffee, black. No soda or processed foods.
    IDEAS? I do not want to be the human yoyo anymore.

  2. mommy

    Your not fat in anyway. Keep strong dont let them bother you

  3. Tami

    i had ordered acai berry and the colon cleanse and was wondering if you have to eat certain foods at all and exercise also was wondering if anyone has had any side effects

  4. Cassandra

    Hi i just wanted to talk to some ppl that would not juj me so. ok i am 12 years old (almost 13) im 5’6 (about that) and i am 130 lbs. every 1 in school call me willow because i am tall and they think im fat. i am starting to think i am and im so confuzzled please help me i dont know wat to do!!!!!

  5. tghum

    I was overweight for many years! Pregnant at 16 and gained almost 100 lbs! My baby didn’t weigh that much! I had my 2nd baby 10 yrs later and was overweight still even after having her. By the time she was one i was bound and determined to do something. I started working out and walking. 30-60 minutes a day. I stopped eatting the foods i once thought were ok. stuck with fruits and veggies, fat free everything! Then after 4 months i was down 42 lbs! Saw a doctor and he prescribed me Phentermine to help me out. Told me to stop eatting anything after 6pm! That was hard! Always, always eat breakfast! I have now lost 70 lbs. It has been 7 months and I feel great. I have 10 more lbs to go and boy those last 10 are always a pain!! Its worth it though! To see the way my husband looks at me! Wow! If you want it bad enough, you just have to go for it!

  6. jeanne

    hi i am 33 yrs old ,a wife,and mother of three teens and i have been struggling with my weight for more then 15yrs,i am asking for anyone who could put some light on a good way i could loose some pounds i would really be appricative i have tried just about all there is i have heart problems and type 2 diabeties and it is so hard,i eat when i am upset or bored

  7. Leanne

    im 13 year old and i am FAT. im getting bullied because of it,i even tryed to kill myself but it didnt work, i dont want to feel like this anymore
    all of my best mates are stick thin and im known as the fat one and im fed up.
    everytime i try to go on a diet i just cant either because my mum always buy’s fatty foods from tesco and ill just eat what ever is in the cupboard i tell her to stop buying it or to hide it from me but she wont, i also eat when im bored its like a horrible horriblre hobby if you like have you got any adivce at all
    i would be very happy if you could help me
    thanks for everythink
    Leanne x

  8. Dr. J

    Actually Zach, some schools of psychotherapy believe the same thing. The problem can be however, that one will remain in therapy forever with the illusion that they are doing something for themselves. Change is everything and sometimes a leap of faith is required. I say, lose the weight and perhaps by doing so you will understand things you didn’t before making the change. Or if you prefer, do both at the same time. Just my opinion in a challenging area.

  9. Zach Hunt

    We can`t just lose the weight we have to figure out why we eat and what we eat that makes us gain and then it must be addressed or we are all doomed to regain.

  10. Cynthia

    Thanks ayse76… good to hear that it isn’t hopeless. I’m losing slowly, but I’m hoping this time I can keep it off. I’m trying to be very careful not to nosedive calories too far.

  11. Quito

    Hey! Settle in, enjoy the ride, don’t sweat the rough spots, and keep your lunchclaws off your daughter’s candy…

  12. braddahgreg

    No more fad diets for me, it’s on to try and live a healthier life. It’s these late night binges that kills me, because I see myself eating my daughter’s candy in the pantry some nights. Going to the gym at 6am isn’t so hard anymore ever since I started about a month 1/2 ago, and I try to keep it at 5-6 small meals (chicken, salad, fruits, veggies, protein shakes, etc.) a day which I must say is pretty healthy compared to what I used to eat. Thats why when my buddy who drives an 18 wheeler cross country calls me every now and then, it makes me stay motivated and ‘keep on keepin on’…

  13. Spectra

    I don’t know that I make weight maintenance my “job”, but it’s just that it’s now a part of my lifestyle where it wasn’t a part of it before. So yeah, I DO work out and eat a decent diet and I try to stick with as much of my healthy eating plan as I can, but I don’t have to be as strict as I did when I was actively losing weight. Now, I actually like working out, so of course I’m going to be doing it more than I did when I was heavy. And yes, I’ve lost ~90 lbs and kept it off for almost 7 years now.

  14. Jan74

    I don’t go hungry now or when I was losing weight. I am also not still on a strict diet (I watch portions, but I don’t obsessively count calories anymore – and every week I eat something like chocolate mousse). I have stopped exercising in the past 45 days, too, due to going back to school.

    And I’ve lost weight. I’m back to the low-end of my personal weight range now.

    Both times when I regained, there were health issues involved (needed an increase of thyroid medication when the rest of my thyroid stopped working the first time, then changed brands of medication and that affected the dosage again). Otherwise my weight is pretty stable, I think. I also went 9 months without exercise due to an injury in 2006 and didn’t gain weight (I lost a ton of muscle, of course).

    So I don’t know, if someone with 3 strikes against her like me (hypothyroidism, PCOS, and a family where almost everyone is obese) can maintain without a lot of stress, I don’t think it is that hard. I don’t deprive myself in terms of food and while I’m pretty active when I do exercise, I had the long total stop with no gain.

  15. ayse76

    Yes, that is true for a lot of members. But not for all, including myself. I workout 2 or 3 times a week (mostly lifting weights), average about 2000 calories a day, and I weigh around 120 lbs. Even when I wasn’t exercising regularly I didn’t have a problem maintaining–of course I also was not eating as much then, but still 1700-1800 calories a day. I think part of it was that when I started losing, my caloric intake was lowered so gradually that my metabolism never took a nosedive. And I lost it very very slowly (about 1 lb every 2 weeks). I know it isn’t so easy for everyone–maybe I am lucky, I don’t know–but it’s certainly doable.

  16. susan

    However, most of the people on the National Weight Control Registry admit that they have to make weight maintenance their job. They have to exercise far more than the average person (60-90 minutes a day), and eat far less (1200-1500 calories). Many of the weight maintainers I’ve talked to readily admit that they go hungry a lot of the time.

  17. Quito

    I think goal isn’t to say it’s hopeless, but rather to identify what it takes to make weight loss sustainable. i think mike od and nomorefatdad (great handle!) are right, but “realistic lifestyle change” is very hard to do.

    This study certainly selected people who would be strongly motivated for lifestyle change:

    To be included into phase 1 of the study, participants were required to have a body mass index (BMI), calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared, of between 25 and 45; to be taking medication for hypertension, dyslipidemia, or both; to have no active CVD (those with a positive Rose angina questionnaire or a CVD event no less than 12 months before study entry and a negative stress test result could join the study with permission from their physician); access to a telephone and to the Internet; and to keep a food diary for 5 days during the screening.

    Major exclusion criteria for phase 1 were medication-treated diabetes mellitus, a recent cardiovascular event or other medical or psychiatric conditions that would preclude full participation in the study, weight loss of more than 9 kg in the last 3 months, recent use of weight loss medications, or prior weight loss surgery. The primary criterion for randomization into the study’s second phase was weight loss of at least 4 kg during the first phase.

    (The study had to impute some data, which is troubling.They didn’t give enough data to determine if this could have introduced any biases)

    So, the result of this study is promising, if it doesn’t provide the long desired magic bullet.

  18. nomorefatdad

    I really think that in order to be successful, long term, the focus should be on living a healthy, sustainable lifestyle with weight loss being one of the many benefits you receive from living that way.

  19. soozeequeue

    Check out some of the posts about some of the “magic pill” diets – ie. go back to the Special K diet and you will find girls still posting about this over a year later because they want to lose a lot of weight in a short time for their prom or to become a model or some such thing. Some of them have decided to eat cereal three times a day, crap-filled cereal at that, and little else. They have no goal beyond this prom and are going to damage their health the way they are losing the weight and then with the way they will inevitably put it right back on. If you mentioned maintenance to them they would have no idea what you were talking about. They are all great at supporting each other in ridiculous goals like trying to lose 5 or 6 pounds a week, it’s too bad they can’t put their support to good use.

  20. ayse76

    I really don’t like the way these studies give such a bleak outlook on permanent weight loss. The National Weight Control Registry is made up of thousands of people who were successful, so there’s no reason for anyone to believe that it’s hopeless, which is essentially the conclusion of most all of these studies. I lost 70 pounds “left to my own devices” and haven’t gained anything back. It wasn’t that I had “no” support, but I didn’t have a specific support system, other than myself. And personally, I think that if I had been relying on anyone else to get me there, it would have been tougher.

  21. Jan74

    I’ve had 2 “rebounds” since my 110lb weight loss – even considering that I didn’t mean to lose 110lb and would have been ok with 90-95lb (90lb puts me at the top of the HWR, and 110lb puts me at the bottom at a weight I wasn’t even at 15 years old…). I had 2 regains of 20-25lb *over* the most I’m comfortable with in the past 6 years. I always considered myself a failure at maintainance because of those, but I guess this article makes me feel better about myself now.

  22. Josh

    I think most people mindlessly eat in times of stress and anxiety. Could it be that regular personal contact simply lowered that? Sort of like talking to a therapist, just talking to someone, keeps people happier and perhaps less prone to binges and mindless snacking.

    Cool post.


  23. Quito

    The number of postings to this blog from people eager for a magic bullet to lose x pounds in y days…. they leave me convinced that most people don’t even understand that maintenance is a huge issue.

  24. Mike OD - IF Life

    No fad diets ever work…only realistic lifestyle changes. Personal contact will always help most people but there still has to have a level of personal responsibility for one’s own health.

  25. Jim

    I’ve found that people really do not want to hear the reality about weight maintenance. All the books out there are about weight loss. However – if you managed to maintain any kind of loss over 2 years or more – you are doing very well.

  26. Spectra

    I’ve found that talking to other people that have lost weight or are losing weight definitely keeps me motivated to keep my weight off. A lot of people sort of look to me as an inspiration for them, so I get encouraged by encouraging others who may be in the beginning stages of weight loss or who don’t know where to begin.

  27. Linds

    No kidding… But I suppose it’s better than gaining back 18 + some.

  28. Chicken Girl

    So, the winners “only” gained back half of what they had lost. How terribly encouraging. :/