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5 Solid Truths About Losing Weight

To be successful at controlling your weight, follow evidence-based advice.

Key Points:

  • Those who wish to lose weight should focus on finding a healthy, whole-foods diet that they can sustain over the long-term.
  • Fad diets or those that cut out essential nutrients (such as fat) may result in short-term weight loss but are not likely to have lasting results.
  • Exercise alone may not lead to substantial weight loss, but can be effective when combined with a healthy, sustainable diet.

When it comes to weight control, the best advice is based on expert scientific findings. That's where you'll find solid recommendations based on research evidence. These 5 evidence-based truths can help you take the best approach to weight loss—the one that will work for you.

JaneB13/pixabay, used with permission
Exercise is just one component of healthy weight control.
Source: JaneB13/pixabay, used with permission

1. There are many good reasons to lose weight if you are clinically overweight or obese.

Obesity is linked to more than 50 other health issues, including a higher risk/or worsening of diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, osteoarthritis, psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, early death, and impaired overall health and wellbeing. In some respects, obesity speeds up the normal aging process.

2. To be successful, a weight loss diet must be sustainable.

In other words, the best diet is the one that you can stick to during and after weight loss. One study looked at the weight loss and sustainability of the diets of 250 overweight adults who followed intermittent fasting, Mediterranean diet, or Paleo diet programs. The researchers found that while more than half the participants chose the fasting diet and lost the most weight after 12 months, those who chose a Mediterranean diet plan were better able to stick to their diet after one year than those on a fasting or Paleo diet. Regardless of their chosen plan, those individuals who were still consistently following their chosen diet after 12 months lost the most weight within their group.

3. Low-fat diets simply don’t work.

For decades, cutting fat from the diet was encouraged by many weight loss programs but, in the end, there was no evidence of long-term success with this approach. Health experts began to look beyond the source of calories toward promoting overall healthful eating behavior and patterns, eating whole foods instead of processed, convenience foods, and encouraging healthy portion sizes of different types of foods. There are a variety of ways to lose weight and keep it off, but besides eating healthful foods, staying active, and finding professional and personal support, you have to look for an eating style that suits you long-term.

4. Losing weight at an older age may present more challenges than at a younger age but age, in and of itself, is not an impenetrable barrier to weight loss.

One recent retrospective study divided morbidly obese patients into two age groups, those under 60 years old and those 60 or older. All participants attended a hospital-based obesity program and lifestyle intervention services including dietary and psychological support. The researchers found the average weight loss to be approximately 7 percent of initial body weight in both groups, with the older group losing sightly more weight on average. Other studies have had similar results and indicated that older participants in structured weight loss programs are often more compliant and therefore more successful at losing weight.

5. Diet adjustments and exercise work better together for weight control than either one alone.

To lose body weight and body fat, you may be tempted to either change your eating habits or increase the amount of exercise you get on a regular basis. But study after study has shown that these methods are more successful when you do them together. One year-long intervention study found that women who used exercise only lost an average of 4.4 pounds at the end of the year, women who used diet only lost an average of 15.8 pounds, and women who changed their diet and exercised regularly lost 19.8 pounds by the end of the study.

Be sure to clear any weight loss plan with your primary physician or other health care provider to determine if it is safe for you.