Background: Previous studies suggest that few individuals achieve long-term weight loss maintenance. Because most of these studies were based on clinical samples and focused on only one episode of weight loss, these results may not reflect the actual prevalence of weight loss maintenance in the general population.
Design: A random digit dial telephone survey was conducted to determine the point prevalence of weight loss maintenance in a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States. Weight loss maintainers were defined as individuals who, at the time of the survey, had maintained a weight loss of > or =10% from their maximum weight for at least 1 y. The prevalence of weight loss maintenance was first determined for the total group (n = 500), and then for the subgroup of individuals who were overweight (body mass index BMI > or =27 kg/m2 at their maximum (n = 228).
Results: Weight loss was quite common in this sample: 54% of the total sample and 62% of those who were ever overweight reported that they had lost > or =10% of their maximum weight at least once in their lifetime, with approximately one-half to two-thirds of these cases being intentional weight loss. Among those who had achieved an intentional weight loss of > or =10%, 47-49% had maintained this weight loss for at least 1 y at the time of the survey; 25-27% had maintained it for 5 y or more. Fourteen percent of all subjects surveyed and 21% of those with a history of obesity were currently 10% below their highest weight, had reduced intentionally, and had maintained this 10% weight loss for at least 1 y.
Conclusions: A large proportion of the American population has lost > or =10% of their maximum weight and has maintained this weight loss for at least 1 y. These findings are in sharp contrast to the belief that few people succeed in long-term weight loss maintenance.