A recent study in the journal Appetite examined how the perception of rule complexity affected long-term adherence to weight control programs. Participants were more likely to discontinue Weight Watchers’ healthy eating patterns due to complex rules than to discontinue the German recipe diet’s (“Brigitte”) simpler approach.

While Weight Watchers and other commercial programs have a good track record of initial weight loss, long-term success is dismal for all. One explanation is the perceived complexity of counting calories, tracking points, weighing, and adding up fat grams.

Programs like Nutrisystem® and Jenny Craig®, with prepackaged meals, simplify the process and again score high for initial weight loss. But ultimately these systems fail too, because people don’t want to buy (or eat) prepackaged meals the rest of their lives.

If long-term weight control is the ultimate goal of your participants, it’s vital to know how people lose weight and keep it off for years. One of the best places to learn is the National Weight Control Registry. Some 30 studies have been done on 5000+ registry members. They’ve lost an average of 66 pounds — and kept it off for 5.5 years. Among the simple habits they’ve incorporated into their lives:

  • Breakfast — 78% eat breakfast every day
  • Regular weighing — 75% weigh themselves at least once a week
  • Screen time — 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV a week
  • Exercise — 90% exercise, on average, 1 hour a day.

Though additional social, emotional, and environmental factors are at play with these individuals, a simpler approach to weight loss clearly is better positioned for long-term success.

For more information on the business benefits of long-term weight control in your wellness program, read the free Health Enhancement Systems white paper Employer-Sponsored Weight Management Programs: The Business Case.

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