We all know people who have apparently “conquered” obesity by losing weight and keeping it off (many go on to become personal trainers, motivational speakers and authors of bestselling miracle diet books).
Who, you may ask, are these people and wherein lies their key to success?
Researchers who have turned finding answers to this elusive question into a considerable enterprise (in the form of the US National Weight Control Registry), in a paper published in OBESITY, now describe four distinct clusters into which these successful maintainers tend to group.
One fictional but rather prototypical representative is Mark, who belongs to (what I would call) the “Golden Boys & Girls of Weight Loss”.
As it so happens, Mark is a 52 years old college graduate, married and unencumbered by a family history of obesity. In fact, Mark, did not begin gaining weight till well into his mid-thirties. Discovering on his 40th birthday, that despite maintaining relatively good health, his BMI was now a portly 32, he decided it was time for a change.
Although he had never made any attempt at losing weight before, he embarked on a diligent self-directed program of regular exercise (about 400 Cal per day) and caloric restriction (to about 1400 Cal per day), as a result of which he dropped 56 pounds to a BMI of 23.
This was almost 11 years ago. Today, Mark continues to maintain his weight loss and finds this relatively easy. He weighs himself regularly, has no problem following his daily exercise routine (about 90 mins of rigorous workouts), does not obsess about what he eats (despite limiting his intake to 1400 Cal), has few cravings and is generally happy with his life (and weight). He seems relaxed and his mood is excellent.
When it comes to his success, Mark does not understand what all the fuss is about. He found a problem, he fixed it, end-of-story! No big deal!
(This, of course, is all according to Mark – the data in the NWCR is self-reported and should therefore perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.)
As it turns out, Mark is a member of a rather elite segment of the NWCR – making up just 13% of registrants. It is not surprising that Mark is male, as this segment is the only cluster of NWCR registrants, where men are well represented (42% to be exact).
Of note is that Mark, like others in this cluster, did not require much help from anyone to turn things around. He may well have glanced at the occasional diet or exercise book, but that’s about it. Mark is certainly not the diet industry’s dream client, largely because he has no need for their services.
But then again, Mark is a rare bird when it comes to “conquering” obesity – only slightly more common than Gertrude, who we will meet later this week.
I have not seen too many Marks in my practice (why would I?). In the rare cases, where I have met folks like Mark (outside my professional life), they tend to be well-adjusted, not too bad to hang out with, and their general attitude seems to be, “I got over my weight, now you get over it too, like, what’s the big deal? – Eat Less – Move More – easy peasy!”
Congratulations Mark – I am sure many out there wish they could just be like you – sadly, you are special indeed!
If there is a Mark out there who happens to read this (although I doubt that Mark would have much interest in a blog about obesity), please feel free to leave a comment.
If you know of a Mark (male or female) – perhaps you can share their story here.
Ogden LG, Stroebele N, Wyatt HR, Catenacci VA, Peters JC, Stuht J, Wing RR, & Hill JO (2012). Cluster analysis of the national weight control registry to identify distinct subgroups maintaining successful weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 20 (10), 2039-47 PMID: 22469954