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Weight Control Practices of U.S. Adults Trying to Lose Weight

Alan S. Levy, PhD; and Alan W. Heaton, PhD
[+] Article and Author Information

From the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, District of Columbia. Requests for Reprints: Alan S. Levy, PhD, Division of Market Studies (HFS-727), Food and Drug Administration, 200 C Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20204.


Copyright 2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1993;119(7_Part_2):661-666. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-119-7_Part_2-199310011-00007
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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.

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