Most dieters excel at weight loss, but fail miserably when it comes to keeping the pounds off. Obesity statistics continue to suggest that we are currently losing the weight loss battle in all age groups. Recent studies confirm that programs like Weight Watchers tend to help dieters achieve sustained weight loss because the program allows you to eat real foods as well as foods you like (in limited portions). These programs also offer a support component. A new study concludes that when it comes to affordable weight loss programs, TOPS is a winner, especially if you want to keep that weight off permanently.
The study’s author, Nia S. Mitchell, M.D., MPH, identified the weight loss and re-gain cycle as a common experience among the dieting population. Clinically significant weight loss is defined as losing 5 percent or more of your excess body weight. So the study looked at TOPS (Take Pounds Off Sensibly), a national weight loss program that is quite affordable with a membership cost of $92 per year. The cost includes a $32 annual fee plus about five dollars per month for local chapter monthly participation. Most other programs, even those considered affordable, tend to cost more, or may involve food purchase in addition to a lower membership fee.
This recent study monitored 75,000 TOPS members who maintained their annual membership for seven years. Of those, nearly 50 percent lost most of their weight in the first year of participation, and 62 percent of the participants maintained that initial weight loss during the subsequent six years of membership.
This is compelling information because it is the first study to show national weight loss statistics and successful statistics on weight change and retention for this long a period of time. During both the weight loss and weight maintenance phase, participants attend weekly meetings, and the membership can continue (and probably should) indefinitely. Also notable is the fact that there is little change or modification in the dietary and lifestyle recommendations between the two phases. The researchers suggest that in the face of burgeoning rates of obesity, TOPS offers effective weight loss, maintenance with affordability, and this can be especially crucial to our efforts in minority and lower income populations.
I have consistently maintained that sustained weight loss requires lifestyle change and one particular component that is crucial to long term success is an ongoing support system. In this case, TOPS is not costly and staying committed to a weekly meeting helps individuals to identify obesity as a disease that requires frequent follow up. If we are to classify obesity a disease then we need to call the sustained weight loss period, a remission period. This statement means that the disease does not disappear. It simply becomes manageable. Keeping it manageable requires sustained commitment to a sensible, energy- balanced eating program, daily exercise, and an ongoing weigh-in (private) and supportive talk program. This approach makes the individual accountable and it helps to keep the individual committed. In this regard, TOPS is tops!
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