For anyone who has tried to lose weight–myself included–we know it is easier said than done. Especially if we try to enforce an unrealistic goal where we say we want to lose a large amount of weight.
Two recent systematic reviews (1,2) focused on the effectiveness of weight loss intervention for type 2 diabetes and the results were disheartening: a reduction of approximately 3.3% of initial body weight was lost on average, compared to usual diabetes care and education. The current weight loss recommendation for people with type 2 diabetes is at least 5% of body weight. However, attaining this goal may be easier said than done and it is important to focus on setting realistic goals overall. But, how is that done?
First, we need to stop focusing on the end goal–losing a large amount of weight–but rather create smaller, incremental goals. For example, maybe you say in the short-term you want to lose five to 10 pounds. And, even a small amount of weight loss can help with overall health.
We must grasp the fact that in order to keep weight off, it might be more beneficial to lose it slower. Previous recommendations suggested to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Several studies over the past few years compared the effectiveness of weight loss interventions (3-5). In one study, almost half of participants who had lost 5% body weight had kept it off for two years, but they required very frequent support–more than weekly.
A 12-week study showed that exercise and use of commercial weight loss programs did lead to weight loss. A more recent review of commercial weight loss programs highlighted that Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers had clinical trials that lasted greater than two years and they did lead to weight loss. What are the resounding themes of these studies? Frequent contact and support.
What can we glean from this? Should everyone use commercial weight loss programs? Not necessarily. Not everyone may benefit. However, the information from these studies is a basis in order to formulate basic guidelines for successful weight loss.
Important things to remember:
- There is no quick fix for weight loss. It takes time and A LOT of effort.
- Making meal plan and activity changes is hard and may not lead to the desired outcome.
- The only way to successful weight loss is making realistic goals.
A United Kingdom study just published in the American Journal of Public Health found that only 1 in 210 obese men and 1 in 124 obese women are likely to return to their normal body weight (6). Many people were able to reduce their body weight by 5%, but 78% of those people gained it back in five years. Why am I calling this out? To just say, chuck it all and live your life? No, but to explain that weight loss with meal planning and physical activity alone will not meet the needs of obese and morbidly obese people. But, that does not mean that weight loss in any form will not be beneficial. So, getting back to realistic goals and focusing on losing only 5-10 pounds for now is a good start.
In trying to accomplish that, what can you do?
- Keep a food journal. Start writing down (with pen and paper, computer or with the numerous apps available, such as MyFitnessPal or GoMeals) everything you eat and drink. Not only will this make you more aware of what you are truly eating, but it can also set the stage for changing your portion sizes or making better food choices.
- Identify how active you are. While the general recommendations are to be active at least 30 minutes most days of the week, start small. If you are not active at all, star with one-minute increments and build up.
- Make sure you have a support system. We know that the commercial weight loss programs are successful because there is accountability–and weekly weigh-ins! Have a non-judgmental individual who can be your cheerleader and help you follow through with your goals.
Just by making small changes to how you eat and getting up to walk or do other light exercises you can make yourself healthier overall. Weight loss is not easy and may require a lot more than what is discussed here, but we all have to start somewhere, so why not start making changes today?
To learn more about a medical, non-surgical weight loss program that has been shown to have a profound impact on managing type 2 diabetes, please click here to visit our partners at Robard.
1. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 17:371-378, 2015
2. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2015
3. NEJM, 365:1959-1968, 2011
4. JISSN, 10 (Suppl 1): 4, 2013
5. Ann Int Med, 162:501, 2015
6. Am J Public Health 2015