Trying to lose weight: diet strategies among Americans with overweight or obesity in 1996 and 2003

J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Apr;110(4):535-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.12.029.


Background: Health professionals recommend that individuals with overweight and obesity lose weight by reducing energy intake while maintaining a healthful diet. This study was designed to examine trends in weight loss attempts and strategies for adults with overweight or obesity among different sociodemographic groups.

Methods: Data from the 1996 and 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System were used to estimate changes in weight loss attempts and strategies across population groups. Data were analyzed in 2009.

Results: Slightly more adults with overweight or obesity attempted weight loss in 2003 compared to 1996. There were substantial changes in the diet approaches reported: rates of those using energy restriction to lose weight doubled between 1996 and 2003, whereas low-fat dieting decreased by one third. Hispanic and less-educated adults did not shift away from low-fat diets. Attempted weight loss was associated with higher fruit and vegetable consumption for most population groups.

Conclusions: Increasingly more adults with overweight or obesity tried to lose weight through energy reduction, but some at-risk groups did not follow this beneficial trend between 1996 and 2003. Dietetics practitioners and public health campaigns should target such groups with concrete recommendations to reduce energy intake while maintaining a healthful diet, including adequate consumption of fruit and vegetables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet / standards*
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted / statistics & numerical data
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted / trends
  • Diet, Reducing* / statistics & numerical data
  • Diet, Reducing* / trends
  • Educational Status
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Overweight / diet therapy*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • Vegetables*
  • Weight Loss*
  • Young Adult