Research Shows That Commercial Weight-Loss Programs are Not Effective

Research Shows That Commercial Weight-Loss Programs are Not Effective

By  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

Are commercial weight loss programs effective?  A recent study gathered existing evidence for individuals who were overweight, but otherwise healthy. More specifically the researchers examined 25 studies overall.  (Journal of Health Psychology, online at

The programs being reviewed involved meal replacement, calorie counting, or pre-packaged meals.  They found that 57% of the participants lost less than 5% of their initial body weight.  Almost half the studies (49%) had 30% or more of the participants drop out of the program.  A second analysis found that 37% of the individuals who completed their program lost less than 5% of their initial body weight.

The conclusion:  “…commercial weight-loss programs frequently fail to produce modest but clinically  meaningful weight loss with high rates of attrition, suggesting that many consumers find dietary changes required by these programs unsustainable.”

Many other studies and clinical experience reveal that when people experience deprivation during a diet regimen, they often rebound after the diet is over to gain back most, if not all, of the weight they may have lost.  Some individuals actually put on more weight afterwards to end up at a higher weight than when they started the effort.

What seems not addressed by these efforts is how to change a person’s eating habits in ways that are sustainable long-term.  This often involves how someone may be using – and misusing – food to provide relief from tension, distress, and psychological pain.  If food is removed as this agent of relief, then alternative relief is needed, as well as efforts to genuinely address the underlying issues that generate the difficulties with food.  More individualized help with a skilled nutritionist to alter food intake without creating deprivation, increase activity levels and calorie burn, and collaborate with a psychotherapist as well. Psychotherapy offers the opportunity to explore, identify, and address the underlying issues that may be at the source of the difficulties with food.

Dr. Alan M. Solomon is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA.  A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310 539-2772, or

Copyright 2017 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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