Losing weight is a long and challenging feat, with a relatively low success rate. While statistics vary, one study indicated that roughly 35%-40% of people who lose modest or moderate amounts of weight—less than 10% of body weight—regain it over two years. Only 20% of people successfully lose 10% of their body weight and keep it off longer than one year.
Often the high levels of motivation present at the start of a weight loss journey wane over time. Especially if a person used an intensive diet or exercise regimen to achieve their weight loss. In addition, many people may experience backsliding, which is when a few diversions on a diet or exercise plan slowly become a return to previous bad habits.
The good news is losing weight and keeping it off is not impossible. Take the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) as proof. The registry is a database of over 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept that weight off for at least one year. Some registry participants have lost up to 300 pounds and kept weight off for as long as 66 years. Data from the registry also indicate that people who keep the weight off for at least two years lower their odds of regaining it by 50%.
While there are common themes when it comes to how people lose weight and keep it off, there is more than one effective strategy for doing so. For example, NWCR research found that 90% of people report exercising an average of one hour a day and 75% continue to weigh themselves weekly. Yet a 2015 study of over 3,000 people on the registry found no difference in weight maintenance success between low and high physical activity groups, and that some people needed stricter diet and higher levels of exercise, while some did not.