Weight Watchers

Posted by Admin on September 14, 2006
Emily Loewenstein is one energetic weight watchers instructor. She has reason to be: she lost 70 pounds on the program. Tom Pimpinelli has also had tremendous success losing weight. “I did very well. Two pounds a week. I dropped from 268, my lowest was 214 or 212,” says Tom. Tom and Emily are great stories. But according to studies in respected medical journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association, Weight Watchers, on average, provides a loss of between six and thirteen pounds after one year. That’s roughly a half pound to a pound a month, or less. In this study, after the second year, the average person ended up only six pounds down; They had, in fact, gained some of the weight they lost back. One expert told us, after five years, most people will have gained back most or all of the weight they lost. “The people who seek help are the people who feel that they can’t do it on your own. Many of them have tried it before by one program or another and they have failed, and they try another program and they fail,” says Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunier, an obesity expert at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center.

Is a program that, in the long run, provides little or no weight loss for the average person worth the money and effort? Or, should it be judged on other factors as well—like overall nutrition and exercise information, and improved cholesterol numbers? “In terms of side effects and in terms of risk factors, metabolic risk factors for diabetes and for cardiovascular disease and for stroke, it’s a helpful kind of weight loss, even though it is modest,” says Dr. Pi-Sunier.

 And is the lack of long term weight loss a function of the weight watchers program, or is it operator dependent--a function of the commitment of the person in the program, or perhaps a lack of realization on that person’s part that this is, indeed, not a magic bullet. Because while weight watchers is a very well constructed program which by all accounts should work, it requires the person to work hard and be consistent.

“You need to change lifestyle for the rest of your life and you need to change both the way you eat, you have to change the portion control, you have to change the activity and it’s only if you do this consistently and over time and keep doing it, that you’ll be successful,” instructs Dr. Pi-Sunier. “It is true you have to be committed,” says Emily.

According to the Weight Watchers website, the goal is a 10% weight loss, or 20 pounds for a 200 pound person. Yet, a review of studies in the annals of internal medicine found that while weight watchers was the best weight loss program among several studied, the largest trial on Weight Watchers reported a loss of 3.2 percent of initial weight after two years.

If a person is say, 200 pounds, which means 6.4 pounds lost. However, realize many patients don’t in the end gain any weight--at very least they stay the same. And in a country where the average person gains a half to one pound a year after age 20, that is a victory in and of itself.

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