Prior statistics of individuals who have lost weight with diet, exercise and behavior modification show that without a maintenance program, 75% regain their weight within one year and 95% within three years. Individuals who attend maintenance programs do far better, with a 60% success rate at three years.
Research on predictors of successful "maintainers" (i.e., those who do not regain weight for three to five years), show that the most important factors are self monitoring (food records), regular and frequent contacts with the weight loss/maintenance program, and regular physical activity for at least thirty minutes per day at a minimum of four days per week. To illustrate the importance of regular contact with the weight loss/maintenance program, we cite a recent study from Sweden where a large group of patients attended a successful weight loss program. All patients were given a series of meetings and seminars on techniques and strategies for weight maintenance. The group was then divided in half; one half of the patients were not contacted for one year, and the other half simply received one telephone call per month from a nurse or dietitian in the program. At the end of one year, the group with regular contact maintained a substantial weight loss, whereas those who were left on their own regained most of their lost weight.
The tools and strategies learned during weight loss must be reinforced over a longer time period. It takes many years to gain the weight and a relatively short time to lose it. Destructive eating patterns are almost sure to recur unless some long-term support system is available. The maintenance program conducts a weekly seminar devoted to maintenance strategies. In addition, patients meet with the dietitian at least once every four weeks and with a physician at least once every eight weeks, or more often if necessary. Healthy eating patterns are reinforced and knowledge of calorie balancing and caloric expenditures of various physical activities are discussed in more detail. There is emphasis on techniques to accept and understand a lapse and how not to let it become a relapse or a collapse. The attendees are universally enthusiastic about this program.