Health Weight Loss

Why Commercial Weight Loss Programs Don’t Work

6th June 2017

By Harriet Mallinson | Published on June 6, 2017

When you’re desperate to lose weight, it can be tempting to turn to the structure and rigors of a commercial weight loss program.

But, new research has proved that such diets quite simply don’t work.

There is already much evidence that dieting in the long term is a vicious circle – those who initially shed the pounds often end up putting the weight back on. So, a team of researchers in Australia set out to see whether they worked at all in the short term.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of more than one and a half million participants was carried out across 25 weight-loss studies.

Lead researcher, Samantha McEvedy from La Trobe University, Melbourne, examined 35 different diets and discovered that 57% of individuals who began a commercial weight program lost less than 5% of their initial body weight. Moreover, dropout rates were sometimes as high as 90%.

On top of this study, McEvedy decided to independently interview 14 participants in depth to understand their expectations.

“People do expect these programs will lead to them losing weight and they typically expect to lose between 500g and one kilo a week,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“They expect to feel better about themselves and more in control. They expect to get some kind of education and learning – to learn strategies and tips for losing weight and maintaining weight-loss.”


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Testimonials published by weight loss companies are often misleading as they portray dieters who lost extreme amount of weight, even though the fine print explains that results can vary.

One sticking point is that people looking to slim down are often desperate. “Dieters are vulnerable consumers and they are often desperately seeking solutions,” McEvedy told the Australian publication. “One of the best quotes that someone said to me was that there is a ‘hopeless optimism’.”

A further issue is that numerous changes effect the body when we diet which makes it difficult to both persevere with the diet as well as to maintain weight loss. These include: our metabolism slowing, hunger hormones increasing, satiety hormones decreasing and becoming overly responsive to delicious looking food.

Nevertheless, opting for a commercial weight program is still better than doing nothing or listening to advice without taking action. McEvedy insists that such regimes do have a role to play if they educate the public on healthy eating and the importance of physical activity.

Rather than resorting to short term options, we should look at what we include in our diet and quality of food rather than what we cut out. This means eating more fruit and vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes, dried beans, wholegrains and low fat dairy. Limiting portion sizes and replacing sugary drinks with water is also advisable.