Objective: To estimate the relative prevalence of different types and combinations of practices among weight-loss practitioners and to describe the relations between individual characteristics and various features of weight-loss regimens.
Design: A telephone survey of a random digit-dialed probability sample of adults in the continental United States who reported that they were trying to lose weight.
Participants: A total of 1431 persons 18 years or older who were attempting to lose weight.
Measurements: Self-reports of a detailed inventory of more than 35 specific practices that might be used as part of a voluntary weight-loss plan, along with information about individual characteristics such as current weight, weight-loss history, demographic profile, motivations to lose weight, sources of information, and knowledge about diet and health.
Results: The average respondent had a current weight-loss attempt lasting from 5 to 6 months, had tried a similar plan before, and had averaged one attempt a year for the past 2 years. Seventy-one percent of women and 62% of men reported that they were both changing their diet and exercising more as part of a current weight-loss attempt. Frequently reported weight-loss practices included weighing oneself regularly (71% and 70% for women and men, respectively), walking (58% and 44%), using diet soft drinks (52% and 45%), taking vitamins and minerals (33% and 26%), counting calories (25% and 17%), skipping meals (21% and 20%), using commercial meal replacements, (15% and 13%), taking diet pills (14% and 7%), and participating in organized weight-loss programs (13% and 5%). Sex, education, and overweight status influenced the choice of a weight-loss practice.
Conclusions: Individual approaches to weight-loss vary and are characterized by their duration and by their recurrent nature. Policy efforts should be directed toward increasing the long-term effectiveness of individual weight-loss plans.