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The Myth of the 5%

Friday, March 22, 2013

You know that statistic that says only 5% of people who try to lose weight actually lose weight? And that of them, only 20% keep it off?

That's pretty discouraging, isn't it? And if you have low self-efficacy, it's easy to throw in the towel and gorge, and then enter the diet and weight loss Empire again, isn't it?

But what is the actual number like?

Of my FB friends, that I know of (may be more), I have 30 friends (out of 290) that I know lost at least some weight (where I noticed a change) and kept it off, as far as I know. Some of them have lost a lot of weight, some just a little weight. But I'm sure there are more who have lost weight, and I just didn't know about it. If I include myself (I have twice lost a good amount of weight and kept it off for years - even though I feel like I'm just beginning, I was 25 lbs heavier and much weaker when I had Avery).

That's 10.6% of ALL of my FB friends. Regardless of weight, regardless of whether they have honestly tried to lose weight, and even out of the 10.6%, I don't know if more have lost weight but I haven't seen them. So how about - how many of my FB friends, that I know of, are at least overweight, or have been in the past? How about I just take 2/3 of my friends, since 2/3 of the population is overweight or obese. That's a good guess. That is 192.

31/192 = 16%

Now, that is assuming that all of those overweight/obese estimated people actually TRIED to lose weight - like, made a conscious effort. How many of them religiously tracked foods, ran, did serious strength training, ate five freggies per day, etc...? I'll be kind, even with my lazy friends, and say that 75% of them seriously tried weight loss at some point.

Seventy-five percent of 192 = 144.

31/144 = 22%


So, if 22% of my FB friends (again, this is an estimate based on population values and off-the-cuff-conservative-hypo
theses) have lost at least SOME weight, where I noticed, and kept it off...

Then I have to ask:

1) Do I have a special population of FB friends? I'd say no. They're typical midwestern folk.

2) Where does the 5% number even come from!? And why does the Diet and Weight Loss Empire keep pulling it out and toting it around, reminding you, "You're probably going to fail... but you can succeed with us! Unless you suck, in which case, you failllll...."

3) Why don't they want us to know that more people actually succeed? Having a 1/5 chance vs. a 1/20 chance... that's a big difference. Almost makes you feel... better about your odds, doesn't it? Makes you think - hey, if I keep at this thing, I have good odds of succeeding!


Unfortunately, I see a lot of people come and go on Sparkpeople, that are here for a short time, and then give up and disappear. I also know a lot of people who have been at this for YEEEAAAARRRSSS... me included.

But there's hope. There really is hope.

Here's an article:


This morning felt good at the Y. I did deadlifts and improved my form. I'm feeling better about them. I increased my weight to 55lbs (10 lbs on a 45 lb bar), and I'll be ready to add more next time - maybe to 65lbs, and see how I do. I did shoulder presses holding 20lbs, and it was SO HARD but some girls (in the weight room!!??) had the 15 lb weights. I also added weights to my lunges (I HATE LUNGES) for a total of 20 lbs. I felt good about that. So, I'm coming along.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Hmm... I've never paid much attention to those stats. All I know is that I tried to lose weight before and I was successful. The thing that threw me off track was when I got my braces - and started dating Jay. He was a terrible influence.

    But when I try, and really put in the effort, it's not that bad. When I try and only put in half the effort, I get nothing out of it. For me, it only works if I focus on all three, diet, cardio and strength training. And when I say focus, I just mean - I'm consistent. My current diet comes in around 1500 calories a day, which I know, you think is too low. But I feel satisfied with it. I don't feel hungry or like I'm missing out. The biggest trick is getting away from bread and sweets. But you're doing that too. I'm training myself to enjoy veggies, which I never have.

    When I got my braces, I couldn't eat fresh carrots or chew gum. That did me in. But now they're gone and this isn't so bad.
    1706 days ago
  • MILLIE5522
    "There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics"......I don't know who said this but its so true! That 5% is just a statistic whereas you and I are so much more than that. You are doing great!
    1706 days ago
    1706 days ago
    I hate lunges, too!!!!!!! lol

    I'm guessing that 5% figure they've got includes everyone who's ever given up soda for one day or taken one walk or eaten one salad in a weak attempt to lose weight. I don't think that counts as trying. :)

    And that's awesome that there were other girls in the weight area!! At least on Pinterest, it seems like women lifting is becoming a big trend (I attribute a lot of it to CrossFit). Maybe I'll just get a book like you did and be brave... I might as well use the gym membership I'm paying for....

    1706 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/22/2013 9:27:46 PM
    Most of my thin friends have always been thin, and never gained a lot of weight they needed to lose. Most of my high school friends put on 20 or more pounds, and haven't taken it off. A few of us who were overweight lost the weight and kept it off. My best friend is a rebounder, who lost a lot of weight for my wedding, then regained it all. So out of my circle, most of us who successfully lost weight kept it off, but the vast majority gained weight and haven't lost.

    My circle of friends are too depressing. Yours are doing much better!

    Even my anecdotal sample shows that most of my friends who lost weight are maintaining, though.
    1706 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/22/2013 9:19:26 PM
    Yeah, you know, I've always strived to be in the top 5% of whatever I do (I'm a little competitive) so I don't let those numbers get me down!

    On the other hand, you are doing great with the ST! You obviously strive to live in that rarefied top 5% crowd as well....welcome aboard!
    1706 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/22/2013 8:51:08 PM
    Interesting stats, and yes, it can be discouraging to believe the statistics.
    1706 days ago
    That was a great article! emoticon
    1706 days ago
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