Comparing Weight Loss on a Program or Alone

David Mendosa Health Guide March 19, 2011
  • Almost all of us who have diabetes have to struggle with our weight. So, wouldn’t it be easier with a formal weight loss program?

    Probably not, according to the results of a presentation to the Fourth International Congress of Behavioral Medicine in Washington, D.C. The National Weight Control Registry just brought this unpublished study to my attention.

    The National Weight Control Registry is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance. It tracks the progress of more than 5,000 people who have lost a lot of weight and have kept it off for a long time. I am one of those people whom it tracks.

    Actually, I don’t consider that the registry’s standards are all that high. To join you only have to show that you have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year.

    By May 25, 2006, I had lost more than 30 pounds, and by January 2, 2007, I had lost more than 100 pounds.

    I did it without using a program, although I had the encouragement of my doctor, Jeffry Gerber, who prescribed Byetta, when my former doctor refused. I became such a believer in Byetta that I wrote my second book, Losing Weight with Your Diabetes Medication, about it.

    But after losing more than 140 pounds with Byetta by December 1, 2007, I wanted to see if I could sustain my weight loss without diabetes drugs. In fact, I was able to lose 10 or 15 more pounds on my own.

    Different people loss weight and keep it off in these two different ways. Comparing 460 people in the registry, half of whom used a program and half of who lost weight on their own, they concluded that “these two groups appear to be very different.”

    The people who used a program were heavier to begin with and had a greater history of weight loss cycling, “yo-yo dieting.” People on a program weren’t able to keep their weight off as long and reported that they felt more susceptible to losing control of their eating. They were less physically active and thought that keeping weight off was harder for them than for people who do it on their own. People who used programs seem to be those who find weight loss and maintenance to be more difficult.

    Where do you fit on this continuum? If you can do it without following a prescribed program, you will probably find that you are more successful in keeping off the pounds.

    Yet I would never tell anyone that maintaining weight loss was easy. It remains a continual struggle for me.

    Yesterday, I returned from a two-week bird photography expedition to Panama. In that two-week period I gained exactly five pounds, even though the eco-lodges where I stayed prepared a special low-starch diet for me (no grains, grain products, or potatoes). But I ate too much at their buffets.

    But now I know that I can reverse that weight gain here at home. The fact that I am not a good cook certainly helps. The biggest help is knowing from my history that I can indeed do it on my own.