Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We are not a statistic

I hate reading this weight loss statistic: over 95% of people gain back the weight that they've lost.

I see this statistic everywhere this time of year, in people's blogs, on the Internet, in the e-newsletters I get from various weight loss groups. Even my Weight Watcher leader mentioned it last week.

Everyone quotes this statistic, but I can't find the research to back it up. I just spent 20 minutes Googling it, and although I found the statistic everywhere, I can't find out where it's coming from. My guess is that some research group did some sort of study and came up with it.

This statistic infuriates me for many reasons. First of all, I want to know how they did the research. How did they come up with this number?

Maybe they checked with Diet Center, where I lost 40 pounds in 1978 and quickly gained it all back.

Maybe they checked with NutriSystem and saw in 1992 I lost 50 pounds, and re-gained it.

Did Jenny Craig tell them about the 70 pounds I lost on their plan in 1995 and regained the 70 pounds plus an additional 20 pounds in 1996 (putting me over 200 pounds for the first time in my life)?

Or was it my doctor that told them about the 110 pounds I lost with PhenFen in 1997 and then regained it all in eight months?  

Did Weight Watchers squeal on me, telling them about my first two attempts on their plan, where I lost 30 pounds and then lost 70 pounds, and gained it all back.

I'm not a poster child for weight loss, and maybe in the past I've been part of the 95% that lost the weight and gained it back again.

On the other hand, I have manage to keep off a chunk of weight for over a year. I was 174 August 8, 2008. I'm 173 today, and I'm on my way back down. That's a 66-pound loss kept off for 17 months. Maybe I'm not a total success (still not at goal), but I'm not a failure either.

Secondly, I don't like hearing this 95% statistic because I think it hurts people more than it helps them. It gives people a feeling of hopelessness, of why should I even try if I only have a 5% chance of winning this battle?

I know that feeling because that's exactly how I use to feel. During dark moments I would take that statistic and think I was absolutely doomed. There was no way I could do this if 95% of people couldn't do it either. That is a myth. Of course I can do this.

So why should you keep trying to lose weight when the odds are stacked against you?

1.) I'm not sure that 95% is even a real statistic. Where did it come from? Let's say it was true five years ago, why would it still be true today?

We're smarter now, we have more healthy food options. Weight Watchers is better than it was five years ago. We know how to do this and make it work. We can make it a permanent change.

There are hundreds of bloggers now that can help us and support us through this journey.

It's not the same world it was five years ago.

2.) Do you really have the option of not trying to lose weight? Imagine if you just totally gave up on losing weight. Where would you be in a year? In five years? Not a pretty picture is it?

I know where I'd be in five years if I gave up on trying to lose weight. I'd either be dead or in a wheelchair or trying to be a contestant on the Biggest Loser or signed up for weight loss surgery. None of those options appeal to me.

Don't let this statistic define you. If it's true (and I really doubt it is), fight it. Beat the odds. Why can't you be in the five percent that keeps the weight off forever?

Better yet, what if we all joined together and really do this, maybe we can increase that 5% statistic to 10% or 20% or 30% or maybe even 100% of the people that lose weight do NOT gain back the weight they lost.

We can't change history, but we can sure change the future.


MizFit said...

I saw a friend this weekend who has lost 130 pounds and the first thing he mentioned to me is how OTHER PEOPLE instantaneously inform him of precisely what youve written about.
the fact he will regain everything in 5 yrs (WTF? people can be so odd huh?)

His determination to lose the weight has now all shifted---since hes at goal---to not regaining and to dragging :) others who have shed on that same path with him.



Rettakat said...

Oh man, I agree with you! As I was reading along, I'm going YES YES YES!! when you questioned the credibility of those statistics.

I remember reading an article that debunked that whole idea as a myth that just won't die, cuz people just love quoting so-called statistics! It is SCEWED data. It was taken from following those that were having difficulty at weight loss, NOT all people trying to lose weight. Yet it keeps getting reported as fact.

And I agree with you that is is demoralizing to keep hearing that, and it will infect the thinking of people.

I don't know if you knew me on my Day 96... but I did a post on this subject. In it I tell about a lady that got tired of all the negativity, too, about weight loss and re-gaining. She ended up interviewing hundreds of successful "losers", and put it all in a book, and told what they had in common. It was VERY encouraging stuff. If you are interested, here it is:

Thanks for a great spunky post!

Natalia said...

That's a scary statistic! Like you said, it happens with MediFast too. But it does work if you do it right! Let's hope neither one of us gains back!

Ron said...

Great post. I think blogging and being accoutabble helps alot. If you ever notice when people quit blogging for awhile(I have done it myself), they come back with an I gained post but I'm back at it..... I am trying to keep bloogging so I don't let myself go and gain, so I don't have to post the IM BACK POST......

boo@NFL Draft said...

is this a real truley a good system because i am in dier need of help i am 12 years old and 180 pounds i feel horrible and do not feel good about my self can any one suggest something to me.

Helen said...

I think if you never stop trying they shouldn't be allowed to include you in that statistic. It's dumb. What about people who regain because of medical issues? I wonder if any of that is ever taken into consideration. For me, my theme is keep on keeping on, NO MATTER WHAT.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm I have heard that statistic a lot too and now am curious to find out where it came from. It's interesting you couldn't find anything on the origins of it.

Your question and answer about where you'd be in 5 years if you gave up on losing weight really hit home to me. I'd be right there with you trying to sign up for Biggest Loser or surgery!

Kristina said...

I LOVE this post! I dont want to be a statistic! I want this to be a life change. I have a friend who has lost 94 lbs on WW and it has completely changed her life. she is so active now, runs marathons, etc....and I see her trying new things, enjoying her life, and I WANT THAT! I think about it everyday, how if I dont get motivated and start moving more and making it a part of my life, not just a way to lose weight, that I will gain it all back....and that scares me to death! I want to be healthy, and enjoy life, not be a lifetime Yo Yo.......I am changing MY future!

clickmom said...

That lame statistic has been floating around since before my first dieting attempt in the 6th grade. Most smokers don't quit the first time they try. Should they stop trying? Most alcoholics have a relapse at some point in recovery too. Should they just throw in the towel and keep on drinking? I think NOT! Being obese is just as physically dangerous as any chemical addiction, and we just have to keep plugging away at it until we find our own truths and our own answers and regain our health.

~ugly girl with a beautiful heart~ said...

So true! I think that things are changing though because, as cliche as it is, people are looking at programs now as "lifestyle changes" rather than diets. I know that's what keeps me going! Hell I only lost a measley 28 lbs last year, if that's not a kick the face and a reason to quit I don't know what is. I'm no where near goal but I'm not giving up, and YOU keep me going Diana! Maintaining isn't a failure, thank you! Now, I don't feel so bad. Big love and hugs babe!

Mary Joy said...

Great post! So well said. I refuse to be a part of that statistic because I refuse to quit trying. But if such a statistic must exist - I agree that we have the power to improve it.

Mary Joy

Sandra said...

Great post Diana - and you are right - things certainly are different now than they were five years ago. Today it is a lifestyle change, yesterday it was diets with On/Off switches. Without the lifestyle change, the Off just became a gain again.

Pink Panda said...

It seems to be something I just hear, not really something that has been researched on to the point of being even somewhat relevant.

Katie said...

That's so true!! That statistic doesn't help ANYONE!

If someone has lost weight before, it just means they have it in them to lose it AGAIN (and keep it off!) If we worry too much about gaining it back, how will we get anywhere??

Patsy said...

IMHO statistics are heavily flawed! I've regained a lot of the weight I lost, but certainly not all of it... And I intend to keep the weight I'm losing this time off for good! :o)

Brooke said...

I'm with the others - GREAT POST!

You have been one of my favorite bloggers for over a year now. I have loved hearing your perspective and joining you on this journey. It certainly isn't easy.

You commented on my post about how "losing is the easy part." It truly is. I remember being furious at people who would say that - because I had never been able to lose. But now that I've lost - it's been an eye opener.

I'm struggling. You told me to keep posting. I'm trying. There are things in my life that have thrown me for a loop and I'm trying to get back up. So, thanks for the inspiring thoughts in your post. Once again - you've helped me. Thanks. Brooke

bbubblyb said...

Now I feel a bit bad that I actually said those same words last night at my TOPS meeting. You are right though who knows if it's even true. I guess I just wanted to get the point across to everyone that it's about not going on a "diet" that diets do FAIL but that it's about changing your lifestyle. That it's forever not just for a few months or year till the weight is off. Great post though Diana and it really made me think about how impacting my words are to others. I sure wouldn't want to make my TOPS folks feel hopeless. Next time I try to focus on just positives.

antgirl said...

They must have watched my yo-yoing over the years, too, Diana.

The other attempts have things to teach us. We learn from each one. Eventually we become armed with the right info and the right ammo.

The real battle is in our heads and emotions. We have to change our perspectives, attitudes and outlooks. Temporary change = temporary loss. Thus, why I committed myself to permanent changes one at a time, things I knew I could stick to. Not adhering to anyone else's ideas to sensible other than my own and working with my own psyche and preferences instead of against them. Took me years to learn it.

But you can win. I started this 4 years ago. Lost the bulk of my weight the first 2 years. Spent the last 2 maintaining. So, there's your proof that it's not hopeless. 100 pounds gone. Ain't coming back. :)

Anonymous said...

Diana, I couldn't agree with you more! Not only is that statistic discouraging to those who want to try, it's NOT TRUE of each one of us. I, too, would be interested to know what the parameters of the study were. When did they do it? Who did they study? What qualified as "keeping the weight off"?

Thanks for the encouragement to look beyond the numbers and to focus on the PEOPLE and STORIES behind them. This post is going to encourage a lot of folks who are currently wondering about whether they should start and if they can do this.

Yes, you can!

Jackie Callahan said...

I think the only people this statistic applies to are people who starve themselves to lose the weight, and then, once they hit their goal, they go back to all of their old eating habits.Obviously this (blogging) community is not made up of that prototype.This community is made up of people who possess all of the things that keep the weight OFF; they are:
1. Proactive
2. Positive
3. Informed
4. Have a large support system
5. Capable of emotional growth and change
All one needs to do is read the blogs of this extended community to see how true all of these adjectives are.This is what sustained success is all about!

Kelly! said... speechless. you really have a way with words girl! i love this so much its so motivating thank you for being so dang amazing! :)

Lisa said...

It's basically the same stats as drug addicts, smokers, gamblers, ALL ADDICTS. If you don't have a REAL food addiction, those WL progrmas will help. Yet, they don't treat addictions. For that someone also needs therapy, group sessions, and maybe medical interviention. The stat is also for a 5 year period and longer. Lots of people have kept most of their weight off for a year and even two. One of the winners of the biggest loser is coming out with a new show because he gained all his weight back in 8 months. The battle is not losing weight. It is keeping it off and if most of America was able to do that, the diet industry would not be a billion dollar industry. I hope you are VERY proud of what you have lost and how you continue to keep it off. You may be in that 5%.

Margo said...

This is a powerful post! Yeah, where DOES that "statistic" come from? It's NOT verifiable like, say, marriage statistics and yet NO ONE would DARE greet a bride on her wedding day by telling her that her marriage has a 50% chance of failure!

And, this being my 3rd time on ww, I agree the plan is AWESOME now. I really just feel like I'm living my same life, only better.

And btw- Even though I did her program at least 18 years ago? If Jenny Craig showed up at my door today, I would punch her in the face. For the Chicken Salad alone. I'm just sayin'.

Thanks so much Diana! This post was exactly what I needed on this rainy day!

Anonymous said...

You do not even know how much I needed to hear that!!!! Great post. I just came across your blog....Love it!!!! Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Are you ok? Hoping to hear from you soon! :)

Leslie said...

Hi - This is my first visit to your blog. I found you from your comments on others' and I loike what you have to say and how you say it. This was a great post about the stats on weight loss. I've certainly done my part in contributing to the negative statistics in the past, but like you have always maintained a chunk of weight loss for awhile. I say we blow their statistics sky high by successfully keeping off what we lose! I'll be back to visit - you have a nice blog!!

The title of this post is a joke, there's no new me. It's just the same old me, doing the same old stuff. Just for fun, I went back...