What do the results of weight loss research say about your chances of keeping the weight off after you’ve had short-term success with a diet plan?

I’m going to share with you a brief snapshot of what the internet tells us.

By the way, there are tons of statistics available on the prevalence of obesity (not the subject of this post), including a stressful-to-watch, running tab of the number of obese people in the world on Worldometer. Last time I checked, the number of obese people was at 1,620,866,178.

But what if you need to lose weight and you want to know how successful your efforts will be?

Well, if you’re looking to lose weight and you need an infusion of hope and inspiration, the following statistics will not make a diet plan seem like a glorious idea.

But the truth is that you have to start somewhere. Often times, a formal weight loss program offers the structure and springboard you’ve been looking for.

While a short-term dieting plan is not the absolute best way to lose weight, it can be a good place to start as long as you simultaneously take steps to begin building a healthy eating mentality.

Whether you’re about to start a popular diet plan or you’ve found an intense rapid weight loss plan, the key is to begin designing your life in the spirit of creating a healthy lifestyle to increase the likelihood of sustaining any benefits of a weight loss plan.

For more on how to build a healthy lifestyle from a psychologist’s perspective, click here.

Your Chances of Keeping the Weight Off After a Diet Plan

It’s not so motivating to jump into a new dieting plan if you buy into the most commonly cited statistic that 95% of dieters return to their pre-dieting weight.

Dr. Thomas Wadden, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, offered his opinion on this statistic in a New York Times article. He described this 95% stat as “clinical lore” since it was based on a 1959 clinical study of only 100 people.

Wow, that study is just a bit outdated. This is a dangerous statistic. Don’t believe it.

This article also points out that most formal research on weight loss recidivism have taken place “in formal hospital or university programs, because they are the easiest to identify and keep track of. But people who turn to such programs may also be the most difficult cases, and may therefore have especially poor success rates.”

In an interview with LiveStrong, Gary Foster, Ph.D., clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania, stated that 65% of people gain the weight back within three years.

A report on the comprehensive weight loss research conducted at UCLA found that “one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher.”

The lack of clear statistics on the effectiveness of diet plans is not because they don’t work. It’s because there haven’t been many rigorous studies proving the effectiveness of specific diet plans.

How about the Success Rates of Rapid Weight Loss Plans?

If you think you know how to lose weight fast or if you plan to start a crash diet, just know that the commonly cited percentage of successful crash dieters is five percent, but it’s not even clear to me where that stat comes from.

I’m certain that you can click around the internet and find sexy crash diets that cite more impressive statistics for the long-term success of their clients.

Interestingly, a Forbes article argues in favor of the rapid weight loss approach, citing an Australian study that found greater weight loss success with people who engaged in a rapid weight loss plan versus people who used a gradual dieting plan.

Again, this was a controlled study that might not accurately represent what it would be like for you or I to begin a lose-weight-fast diet in the real world.

Conclusion about the Long-Term Success Rates of Diet Plans

The long term success rates of diet plans are low, but it is possible to keep the weight off.

For some powerful tips and strategies (and a refreshing perspective) on losing weight the right way, take a look at my other posts on the weight loss and healthy living.

Good luck and feel free to comment below if you have other statistics you want to add or an opinion related to what I’ve said here.


Dr. Greg


Weight Loss and Diet Statistics

Wikipedia on Obesity

The Best Way to Lose Weight