Health & Wellness Articles

5 Secrets of the 5%

What You Can Learn from Successful Dieters

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More elusive than Bigfoot, more mysterious than the alien residents of Area 51—they’re so anonymous, we’re tempted to ask "do these people actually exist?" I’m here to tell you that YES they do exist. You may even know one or two.

They’re the legendary 5% of people who have lost weight and actually kept it off for the long-term. If you’ve never met one these people before, don’t be surprised. They prefer to stay relatively unknown. Having discovered the prized secret to a healthy lifestyle, they tend to enjoy their status and privacy.

But what about the other 95% of us who have struggled with weight loss and continue to do so? Are we doomed to a life of frustration and failure, with no promise of good health in sight?

Of course not! At SparkPeople, I’ve witnessed a lot of these 5%ers in action. I wondered, what do they do differently than the rest of us? After a non-scientific review, I was able to boil it down to a handful of key strategies and tactics that are pretty common among people who succeed. For the first time, their secret is out. The doors are blown off. Join me in exploring these secrets and use them in your own life. Pretty soon, you can be part of this group too.

The 5%…

  1. …Make It Public. The 5% generally don’t keep their weight loss efforts to themselves. They recruit supporters. They ask for help. They swap war stories with friends. They give and take encouragement. Often a goal buddy is involved, or at least a positive, supportive friend who holds the dieter accountable. Studies show that just by writing down or announcing your goals, you automatically increase your chances of success. Keeping a Community Journal or blog is a non-threatening, productive way to make your goals public.
     
  2. …Pay Attention. A permanent, healthy lifestyle is created on purpose. Planning, tracking, reading menus, asking questions, following progress reports—they’re all part of the 5% strategy of knowing what’s going on and preventing setbacks. This crowd doesn’t believe in fooling themselves or relying on chance to make things happen. Usually (if not always) aware of the foods they eat, and on the lookout for opportunities to stay active, they know that good health is no accident. Nutrition Trackers and Fitness Planners play key roles in this strategy.
     
  3. …Enjoy Themselves. There’s a reason that a healthy lifestyle sticks around for this small minority. They make weight loss a positive experience and have fun with it. Because they feel good about their goals and their new habits, they also feel good about themselves and what they’ve accomplished. Programs based on negative messages, dread, resignation, or criticism are doomed to disappear. Optimists are proven to reach more goals than pessimists. They also live healthier, longer lives.
    Continued ›
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About The Author

Mike Kramer Mike Kramer
As a writer and artist, Mike has witnessed countless motivational stories and techniques. See all of Mike's articles.

Member Comments

  • I'm sorry, but 5% is a truly lousy percentage. Not very encouraging on a weight loss site!
    - 8/10/2014 3:08:20 AM
  • saw his article and I have been part of a different group, I guess. But none the less lost weight. First I was getting around day to day as many people but eventually landed i the ER due to my out of control weight gain. Close to death as other medical problems I now enter a gym daily. Turned things around and still continue to move foreword.

    Doctor would ask me, "How did you get around?". My only response at the time was, "like everyone else?!!". They then unleashed the news, you were 800lbs!!! The ladies that have a special place with me, Holly Barker (fitness model/my gym owner/competitor)
    , Whitney (then manager of the gym), Amiee (then a trainer in the gym).

    I am now 255lbs........

    to be honest I never tracked anything until this past year. My Biggie is I enjoyed myself. Why does one play the sport, or hobbies......its not because they have to, it that they enjoy it.

    - 7/27/2014 4:41:17 PM
  • Saving this for future inspiration & motivation, for the days when it seems better to quit. Thanks for sharing. - 6/5/2014 9:49:25 AM
  • I am glad that keeping the weight off is being addressed, this article doesn't tell you much.
    I weighed 335 ,on Jan. 1, 2010. I lost to my desired weight of 145 in 18 months. then the real struggle began. Do I continue to exercise 3 hours a day? How do I adjust my food intake? Can I eat foods that I avoided or ate in a limited way? There were trials and errors. I found I had to maintain a plan of exercise, track what I ate. after a while I found a happy balance. But at times illness would throw me off track. I had to remember the horrors of being morbidly obese and the joy of feeling normal to get me through some hard days. those life long habits of eating what we want, of not feeling deprived are hard to completely give up. And what works for me, might not be what someone else needs. It's a day by day learning process. You really have to want the healthy, fit lifestyle more than that pizza or chocolate cake. You have to know why food plays such an important part in your life. It's all in the mind. Everyday for the rest of my life I will be aware of what I eat and how active I am. Plus I like to look good. I love to dress in nice fashionable clothes. at my present weight I can be that women.
    I stopped wondering when i could start to eat normal again once the weight was lost. I realized that the way I ate now was the normal way.
    So for me maintaining is being aware everyday of what I eat, what I weigh and how can i get in some form of exercise. - 1/20/2014 11:49:03 AM
  • I was going to say "I want to be in that 5%" but instead I am saying "I AM going to be in that 5%" - 8/21/2013 2:20:25 PM
  • I gain my weight with my boy's. Lot some of it. Then as I got older started to putting on weight and it's so hard to get it off. - 6/22/2013 2:05:56 PM
  • I'll stick with this guy. This is one of my favorite articles. - 2/26/2013 8:30:04 AM
  • I think this article is just carelessly written. The author contradicts him or herself, saying early on:

    "They prefer to stay relatively unknown. Having discovered the prized secret to a healthy lifestyle, they tend to enjoy their status and privacy."

    Then three paragraphs later, follow up with
    "The 5%…
    1. …Make It Public. The 5% generally don’t keep their weight loss efforts to themselves. They recruit supporters. They ask for help. They swap war stories with friends. They give and take encouragement."

    ...etc. Though of course, the preceding section seems to be speaking about weight loss rather than healthy weight maintenance.

    Yes, this article needs to come out of the rotation, or at the very least, whoever is responsible for site content should have it edited and request that some of the maintainers review it before it goes back up. - 8/16/2012 8:22:02 AM
  • Sorry guys, there's not a polite, PR-friendly way to say it.

    This article is a joke. Sparkfolks out there -- if you're going to listen to anyone, don't even listen to me -- listen to 4a-Healthy-BMI.

    I promise you this: No one's done more for maintenance on Sparkpeople than 4a-Healthy-BMI, period -- that includes behind the scenes work, on Spark publicly, our own project and even national television. And our shared experience is dealing with people that are largely apathetic, frightened or ignorant, good intentions and/or business needs aside.

    I'm unsure if folks can understand where 4A and myself are coming from with this: After all the support losing weight, there's very little understanding, support or tools to keep it off. It's not enough to just maintain personally -- it's our goal to make those who successfully maintain a greater percentage than 5 percent.

    Playing nice with the powers that be just doesn't make much progress. It's very clear beyond "and you can do it too with this product!" people aren't very interested in what you have to say.

    Then those same people want you to be their PR monkey.

    Yes, that's insulting, but what's more is there are many ways to make maintenance easier, less mysterious and supported that most Diet Industry People can't understand. People need instruction and support they're not receiving.

    This article does not help. So I'll reiterate 4A's point: Frankly, this article is an embarrassment. Information at this is powder-puff information, at best, with no science or ethnographic data (you need a combination of both until maintenance research catches up). That's five years old.

    A few examples: distinguishing between weight loss and maintenance (picking a range and how), dietary tweaking, not only coming up with new goals, but placing them in a different context, behaviors researchers have found, and also those activities that researchers haven't thought of to research yet (but you see the trends after studying maintainers for years).

    So I'm not sure what's more disheartening: t... - 8/14/2012 2:55:33 PM
  • Maintaining for 1+ years. I am also a proud member of At Goal and Maintaining team, as well as 50+ Maintainers. WE ARE HERE!! We are active and working hard. We are not elusive and secretive. Start supporting your maintaining base, Sparkpeople! - 8/13/2012 12:34:43 PM
  • Maintaining for 3+ years, proud member of At Goal and Maintaining! With respect, this article is dated, has more to do with weight loss than with weight loss MAINtenance. Let's see SP take a lead in recording, promoting and motivating people to MAINtain weight loss -- the MAIN goal for almost all of us. Use the resources of the At Goal and Maintaining Team which is NOT invisible or elusive or resigned to inevitable failure. We're here, we're doing it, ask us how, please. Then publish and promote the results more prominently!! SP is uniquely positioned to blow that 5% maintainers statistic OUT OF THE WATER!! - 8/12/2012 7:44:27 PM
  • When I belonged to "TOPS CLUB" (a national organization that gets little attention), we had nine KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly) These were older people who came to the meetings ever week and weighed in. Some of them had kept their goal weight for over 20 yrs. BUT, 95% of people do give up and regain the weight, is true. - 8/12/2012 6:51:40 PM
  • I lost a total of 42 lbs, Had a baby (at44) didn't gain weight then, but now that she is almost 4 gained, I've gained 12lbs, and I am having such a hard time loosing it. SOOO much harder when your older, but I'm never, never, ever going to give up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    !!! - 8/12/2012 1:57:02 PM
  • ELECTRALYTE
    We are here!!!! Lot's of us. - 8/12/2012 1:07:24 PM
  • I have not hit goal yet but have been plateaued long enough at a reasonable weight to figure I'm currently "maintaining". I expect that I will always be exercising, watching my calories and being as active as I can--or I'll gain it back. So, while I'd like a "magic" way to maintain, I think I'll just keep doing what I'm doing--allowing a few more "treats" than I get now but still living this lifestyle. - 8/12/2012 12:15:43 PM