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Weight Control - Difference between Weight Loss and Weight Control

Weight Control - Difference between Weight Loss and Weight Control

Weight loss means losing weight - weight control refers to the act of maintaining weight at a healthy level. Many dieters successfully lose weight, but then lose control and regain most of the weight lost. Some dieters choose diet programs that cause excessive amounts of water weight loss or lose weight with pills. Typically, these weight loss methods are only temporary, and most (if not all) weight is regained.

Weight Control - Difference between Weight Loss and Weight Control

Weight Control - Healthy Weight Maintenance

Weight control focuses on developing stable and healthy eating habits, together with regular exercise habits. Weight control is a pattern of behavioral routines, rather than a weight loss program with a weight target to achieve within a set time. Weight control is about controlling a range of weight-related habits like: food shopping, cooking, dining out habits, exercise and lifestyle. Weight control involves diet modification, and developing a healthy, positive attitude to food. Weight control usually means adopting new attitudes towards yourself, your weight and body shape, and developing more realistic expectations of how weight affects your life.

Weight Control - A Long Term Process

Successful weight control is a long term process, especially for seriously overweight individuals or those with obesity. It requires patience and a positive approach to all weight-related behaviors.

Weight Control - Support

Successful weight control means knowing how to find support and information. As a first step, consult your doctor or health-care provider. Visit your local library to find out about nutrition, or surf the internet for weight-related web sites and dietary information. Research shows that weight control is easier for those who know about calories, nutrition and healthy diet.

Weight Control - Weight Research Data from US National Weight Control Registry

National Weight Control Registry (NWCR)

The National Weight Control Registry was founded in 1993 and is a collaborative venture between Dr James Hill of the University of Colorado and Dr. Rena Wing of the University of Pittsburgh. The NWCR is simply a database of people successful at maintaining a weight loss.

National Weight Control Registry - Purpose

The purpose of this national database is to identify a large group of people who have been successful at long-term maintenance of substantial weight loss. The National Weight Control Registry uses quantitative measures to describe weight-loss and weight-maintenance strategies. This is NOT a treatment plan. To date, there are over 2,000 people, from all over the United States, enrolled in the NWCR.

National Weight Control Registry - Weight Loss Myths

One of the most popular myths about weight loss is that everyone who loses weight will eventually gain it back. The National Weight Control Registry is a research study which has exploded this myth and shown that successful weight loss is indeed possible.

Weight Control Findings - National Weight Control Registry


  • Successful weight losers report making substantial changes in eating and exercise habits to lose weight and to maintain their losses.

  • On average, registrants’ report consuming about 1400 kcal/day (24 percent calories from fat) and expending about 400 kcal/day in physical exercise.

  • The average registrant has lost about 60 pounds and kept it off for about 5 years.

  • Two-thirds of these successful weight losers were overweight as children and 60 percent report a family history of obesity.

  • About 50 percent of participants lost weight on their own without any type of formal program or help.

  • Successful weight losers appear similar to normal weight individuals in terms of resting metabolic rate.

Specific Weight Control Studies

Weight Control - Difference between Weight Loss and Weight Control

Weight Control Less Diificult than Initial Weight Loss

42% of the first 784 participants with NWCR report that maintaining their weight loss is less difficult than initially losing the weight. Future studies will examine in greater detail the weight maintenance behaviors of these individuals and identify factors which influence continued maintenance of weight loss.

(Source: Klem, M.L., Wing, R.R., McGuire, M.T., Seagle, H.M., & Hill, J.O. A descriptive study of individuals successful at long-term maintenance of substantial weight loss. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997, 66, 239-246.)

Successful Weight Control Using Low Fat Diet

This study looked at weight maintenance strategies used by registry members who initially lost weight either 1) on their own, 2) through organized programs, or 3) through programs utilizing liquid diets. Participants who used liquid diets were more likely to be women, older, currently heavier, and to have a history of health problems. All three groups are currently maintaining their weight losses by eating low-energy, low-fat diets and engaging in regular physical activity. Thus, despite using very different methods to initially lose weight, individuals who lost weight on their own, through organized programs, or with liquid diets are all using similar strategies to maintain weight.

(Source: McGuire, M.T., Wing, R.R., Klem, M.L., Seagle, H.M., & Hill, J.O. Long-term maintenance of weight loss: Do people who lose weight through various weight loss methods use different behaviors to maintain their weight? International Journal of Obesity, 1998, 22, 572-577.)

Weight Maintenance - Does Not Trigger Psychological Symptoms

Prior studies have shown that individuals may be genetically predisposed to become overweight. Based on this finding, some researchers have suggested that attempts to lose weight (to drop below one’s genetically determined "setpoint weight") will inevitably lead to intense psychological pressures to regain the lost weight. In this study, we examined the level of psychological symptoms among registry members, all of whom have successfully lost weight and who are therefore likely to be below their "setpoint weight." Levels of depressive symptoms, general emotional distress, binge-eating and self-induced vomiting in registry members are considerably lower than the rates of these behaviors seen in psychiatric samples, and similar to rates seen in random samples of the general population. Thus, we found no evidence that successful maintenance of a weight loss is associated with clinically significant levels of psychological symptoms.

(Source: Klem, M.L., Wing, R.R., McGuire, M.T., Seagle, H.M., & Hill, J.O. Psychological symptoms in individuals successful at long-term maintenance of weight loss. Health Psychology, 1998, 17, 336-345.)

Successful Weight Loss - No Evidence of Reduction in Metabolic Rate

Some researchers have suggested that a successful weight loss may be accompanied by a larger than expected reduction in resting metabolic rate. If this is true, this reduction (also called "increased metabolic efficiency") may be the reason so many people find it difficult to maintain weight losses. In this study, we measured the resting metabolic rates of 40 registry members and a group of weight-matched control subjects. Resting metabolic rates for the two groups were not significantly different, although registry members had a respiratory quotient (RQ) slightly higher than that of control subjects. We found no evidence of increased metabolic efficiency in registry members, suggesting that this phenomenon is not an obligatory consequence of successful weight loss. The observed difference in RQ may have been due to either registry members’ consumption of a low-fat diet or to a reduced capacity for fat oxidation.

(Source: Wyatt H.R., Grunwald G.K., Seagle H.M., Klem M.L., McGuire M.T., Wing R.R. and Hill J.O. (1999). Resting energy expenditure in reduced-obese subjects in the National Weight Control Registry. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 69, 1189-1193.)

Weight Control After Substantial Weight Loss - Comparison Study

Surgical treatments for obesity produce large, well-maintained weight losses as well as improvements in psychosocial functioning. It has been suggested that large weight losses achieved through non-surgical means may produce adverse changes in psychosocial functioning. The purpose of this study was to compare psychosocial functioning and weight maintenance behaviors in registry members who lost large amounts of weight through surgical versus non-surgical means. Both groups reported that weight loss had led to significant improvements in many areas of life, and members who used non-surgical means to lose weight were no more likely than surgical patients to report symptoms of depression or disordered eating. The surgical group reported eating a diet higher in fat, and were much lower in physical activity, than the non-surgical group. Thus, while both groups are functioning well and maintaining significant weight losses, they appear to be using very different behaviors to maintain the weight losses.

(Source: Klem, M.L., Wing, R.R., Chang, C.H., Lang, W., McGuire, M.T., Sugerman, H.J., Hutchison, S.L., Makovich, A.L., and Hill, J.O. (In press). A case-control study of successful maintenance of a substantial weight loss: Individuals who lost weight through surgery versus those who lost weight through non-surgical means. International Journal of Obesity.)

Weight Control Gets Easier Over Time

For several health-related behaviors (smoking cessation, alcoholism, weight loss), risk of relapse seems to decrease over time. The purpose of this study was to examine, among registry members, the relationship between duration of weight loss maintenance and the amount of effort and attention required to maintain a weight loss. Registry members who had maintained weight losses for longer periods of time reported using fewer weight control strategies and indicated that less effort was needed to stay on a diet and to maintain their current weight. Members who had maintained weight losses for both shorter and longer periods of time derived equal amounts of pleasure from exercise, low-fat eating and maintaining their weight losses. Thus, as duration of maintenance increases, the effort required to maintain seems to decrease. This shift may make it easier to continue maintaining the weight loss.

(Source: Klem, M.L., Wing, R.R., Lang, W., McGuire, M.T., and Hill, J.O. (In press). Does weight loss maintenance become easier over time? Obesity Research.)


Note: Dr James Hill is Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. His interest is in factors that influence body weight regulation. In particular, he is interested in environmental factors that promote body weight gain and obesity. Currently he is researching how physical activity level influences body weight regulation. Dr Hill is a member of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity, and is Past President of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity.

Sources include: National Weight Control Registry. 1-800-606-NWCR.


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