Background: National guidelines for the treatment of obesity consider weight loss of 5-10% a successful outcome, as it is associated with improvements in weight-related comorbidities . The average weight loss achieved with lifestyle interventions and pharmacotherapy is in this range , but the results envisioned by people seeking treatment for obesity often exceed this . We evaluated weight loss goals among participants enrolling in a dietary weight loss study.
Methods: 100 adults with obesity undertook an 8-week modified very-low-energy diet (VLED) program, which involved replacing 2 meals per day with a commercially available formulation (Optifast VLCD, Nestlé Nutrition) and consuming one low-carbohydrate meal per day (total daily energy intake approx. 3350 kJ/800 kcal per day), followed by a structured transition to regular foods and 12 month follow-up. Prior to starting the program, participants’ weight loss goals were assessed using the Goals and Relative Weights questionnaire , which asks participants to nominate a dream weight, and weights they would be happy with, accept, or be disappointed to achieve.
Results: The participants were 61 women and 39 men with (mean ± SD) age 48.2 ± 12.5 years, weight 113.5 ± 25.9 kg and BMI 39.8 ± 7.3 kg/m2. The average reported “dream” weight was 78.0 ± 12.3 kg, and “disappointed” weight 101.7 ± 21.6 kg. Mean percentage weight losses required to achieve “dream”, “happy”, “acceptable” and “disappointed” weights were 29.8 ± 9.5, 22.3 ± 8.3, 16.5 ± 7.5 and 9.9 ± 5.7% respectively.
Conclusion: Weight loss of 10%, which would be considered a successful outcome by healthcare practitioners, is viewed as disappointing by people with obesity starting a weight loss program. Participants’ weight loss goals greatly exceed the average results achieved with even the most intensive non-surgical interventions.
This research was funded by a Bupa Health Foundation grant.