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Consumer Reports finds that more than half of successful dieters lose weight on their own

Posted Tuesday, January 13, 2009

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Survey of 21,000 readers reveals six stay-thin strategies; Tips for healthful meals on a budget

Yonkers, NY — A new survey published in the February issue of Consumer Reports reveals the secrets of successful dieters, many of whom say they lost weight themselves, without the aid of a commercial diet program, medical treatment, book, or diet pills. Their successful do-it-yourself strategies are unveiled along with tips for healthful meals on a budget in a New Year’s do-it-yourself guide to diet and fitness at The online hub also includes tips for building a home gym for less than $100 and ratings for fitness equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, heart-rate monitors, pedometers, and infomercial fitness machines.

Six Secrets of the Slim

A total of 21,632 readers completed the survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, which identified three key groups: the “always thin” (never overweight), “successful losers” (once overweight but now at least 10 percent lighter, and have kept the pounds off for at least three years), and “failed dieters” (overweight and would like to lose, but still close to heaviest weight). The always thin comprised 16% of the sample and successful losers made up an additional 15%. Failed dieters were, sad to say, 42%. The remaining respondents didn’t fit into any of these categories.

In the group of “always-thin” respondents, a mere three percent said that they never exercised and ate whatever they wanted. In fact, the eating and exercise habits of this group look surprisingly similar to those of the “successful losers,” encouraging news for would-be dieters who might think that the “always thin” have a genetic edge.

Through statistical analyses, Consumer Reports was able to identify six key behaviors of these two groups whose eating and exercise habits were closely matched. Consumer Reports defines the behaviors that correlate strongly with having a healthy body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight that takes height into account.

  • Watch portions. Carefully controlling portion size at each meal correlated strongly with a lower BMI. Successful losers were especially likely (62%) to report doing this behavior at least five days a week. So did 57% of the always thin, but only 42% of failed dieters.
  • Limit fat. Fifty-three percent of successful losers and 47% of the always thin restricted fat to less than one-third of daily calorie intake five days a week or more, compared with just 35 % of failed dieters.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables. Forty-nine percent of successful losers and the always thin said they ate five or more servings a day at least five days a week, while 38% of failed dieters did so.
  • Choose whole grains over refined. People with lower BMIs consistently opted for whole-wheat breads, cereals, and other grains over refined (white) grains.
  • Eat at home. As the numbers of days per week respondents ate restaurant or take-out meals increased, so did their weight.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise. Regular vigorous exercise—the type that increases breathing and heart rate for 30 minutes or longer—was strongly linked to a lower BMI.
Price Versus Nutrition: Making Smart Choices

Although healthful foods often cost more than high-calorie junk food, Consumer Reports unearthed some encouraging exceptions. Two rich sources of nutrients, black beans and eggs, cost mere pennies per serving and less than plain noodles, which supply fewer nutrients. And for the same price as a doughnut, one can buy a serving of broccoli. See our tips for cooking healthful meals on a budget.

Downturn Diet: Healthful Eating On A Budget

Consumer Reports invited its nutrition experts, other staff members, and visitors to the Health blog to share tips for putting together healthful meals for less. The ideas poured in and they’re all available in the New Year’s DIY guide at Here are a few good ones:

  • Eat Beans: They’re inexpensive, versatile, and a great source of protein and fiber.
  • Choose store brands: Also called “private label,” they are often just as good as the name brand and can save you money.
  • Plant a garden: It requires a little time, but it can have nice payoffs, including exercise.
  • Shop the perimeter: The sections of the supermarket around the outer walls hold the nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy. The inner aisles contain processed and snack foods.
  • Avoid packaged drinks: Instead of buying pricey teas and fruit drinks, brew your own tea and mix in fruit juice.
The full report is available in the February ‘09 issue or online at

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.

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Consumer Reports finds that more than half of successful dieters lose weight on their own
A new survey published in the February issue of Consumer Reports reveals the secrets of successful dieters.
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