Friday September 28
Obese People May Set Unrealistic Weight Loss Goals
By Charnicia E. Huggins
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Although obese people can gain health benefits by losing just 5% to 10% of their weight, many of them set higher goals for their weight loss, new study findings show. And in doing so, they may also be setting themselves up for a big disappointment, researchers report.
The findings show that ``obese patients have unrealistic goals for weight loss,'' lead study author Dr. Gary D. Foster of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, told Reuters Health. ``Their expectations cannot be met by nonsurgical treatments.''
To investigate, Foster and his colleagues studied nearly 400 obese individuals who desired to lose weight, including 50 who sought surgical treatment. On average, study participants were about 43 years old and weighed about 109 kilograms (240 pounds).
Study participants reported an average dream weight of about 64 kilograms (141 pounds) and said they would be disappointed if they weighed, on average, 90 kilograms (198 pounds) at the end of their weight loss treatment, according to the report in the September 24th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine (news - web sites).
In fact, they said that losing 16% of their body weight would be ``disappointing,'' something they could ``not view as successful in any way,'' and losing 25% would be only ''acceptable''--but they ``would not be particularly happy.''
The participants' initial weight most strongly predicted whether they would be happy with their weight at the end of the treatment or if they would find it just ``acceptable'' or ''disappointing,'' the report indicates. Thus, heavier individuals tended to be more disappointed with the results of their weight loss than their lighter peers.
The heavier participants realistically chose higher values for their desired weights than did lighter individuals, but these desired weights still required more weight loss in comparison to that required for the lighter individuals to reach their dream weights, the researchers explain.
For example, participants who weighed about 90 kilograms (198 pounds) said that losing 18% of their weight would be acceptable, but those who weighed about 135 kilograms (298 pounds) needed to lose almost double that amount (33%) to consider their weight loss acceptable.
Patients who were screened for surgical treatment chose significantly lower dream weights than did their peers. In general, patients undergoing surgery as an obesity treatment could expect to lose 27% of their body weight, but these study participants considered a 38% weight reduction as only ''acceptable,'' Foster's team reports.
The extent to which an individual is satisfied with his or her weight loss may influence their subsequent maintenance of that weight loss, the authors suggest. But this belief is based only on clinical experience and related psychology studies, so a long-term study is needed, they conclude.
``Weight loss is both a behavioral and biological struggle,'' Foster said. ``It is a myth that you can weigh what you want; not everyone who eats the same and exercises the same weighs the same.''
Foster also offered the following advice to people who desire to lose weight: ``Make changes that improve your weight and health that are sustainable. Rather than pursuing unrealistic weight goals, live your life fully.''
SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;161:2133-2139.