Little is known about the relative importance of self-image, physician attention to obesity, weight-loss program participation, exercise, self-motivation, and nutrition knowledge in the process of weight loss. Fifty-six obese adults who had been patients in a university family practice setting for at least five years between 1980 and 1986 were surveyed by telephone. Questions were designed to determine factors considered important to obese individuals in their weight-loss efforts and to determine factors related to weight loss among obese individuals. Nearly all of the survey participants felt that they had a good knowledge of nutrition and that they applied their knowledge of nutrition to their daily eating. They did not feel that additional knowledge of nutrition would help them control their obesity. Participants reporting physician attention to their obesity and recent weight-loss program experience were more likely to be categorized as weight losers over the five-year interval. Factors felt to be important in their weight loss by most patients who lost weight at some time were exercise and self-motivation.