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Latest Research: Latest findings and research on what works in Alternative Medicine

Food for Thought

Stop Dieting and Lose Weight

Stop dieting to lose weight? It could work for you-just learn more about unrealistic expectations you may have. We hear it over and over: diets don't work. And it's true: Even though 44% of women in America and 29% of men are on a diet on any given day, still, two-thirds of us are overweight or obese. With such daunting statistics, clearly, we're not losing weight or keeping it off. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association offers a clue about why a "calories in-calories out" formula may be unworkable and a recipe for failure: unrealistic expectations about how much weight we want to lose.

Researcher Dr Gary Foster and his team at the University of Pennsylvania discovered the link between impractical and improbable weight loss goals and failure to lose weight and keep it off when they asked 60 obese women to categorize their weight loss expectations into four categories: dream weight; happy weight; acceptable weight, and; disappointed weight. At the end of the 48-week weight loss program, almost half didn't achieve even their disappointed weight. Concludes Dr. Foster: "Establishing goals based on reasonable expectations rather than on ideal weight is a dramatic paradigm shift."

What are "reasonable expectations?" To begin, realize that optimal weight is not about a certain number on the scale and reaching a particular goal, says Heather Bell, MPH, RD, a nutrition therapist at the Tufts-New England Medical Center. Also, consider that in addition to eating and activity habits, weight problems may be due to genetics (what you inherit from your parents), a slow metabolism, illness, and emotional distress. These are other reasons that focusing solely on a goal weight with a "calories in-calories out" formula may be unrealistic and a recipe for failure. Instead, realize that small changes can bring big benefits. For a lifetime of success, pay attention to the health benefits that even modest weight loss can bring.


  1. Serdula, MK; Mokdad, AH; Williamson, DF, et al. Prevalence of attempting weight loss and strategies for controlling weight. JAMA. 1999;282:1353-1358.
  2. Tufts University. Yes, but is weight loss the be-all and the end-all? Health & Nutrition Let. July 2004. www.healthletter.tufts.edu/issues/2004-07/weight.html

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