The study involved over 21,000 Consumer Reports subscribers who were grouped based on their weight loss success or defeats. There was the "successful losers" group, who made up 15% of the participant pool; these individuals had lost and kept off at least 10% of their heaviest weights for three years or more. Then there was the "failed dieters" group, who were at or near their highest weights, despite past attempts or current wishes to trim down; this group made up 42% of the respondents. Finally there was the "always thin" group, who had never had weight issues and made up 16% of the pool. The last group was miscellaneous, containing people who, for example, had lost weight too recently to be classified as any of the above.
... [T]he eating and exercise habits of the 'always thin' and 'successful losers"' groups were almost identical ...
So what's the secret of the "successful losers" group? While it may not be a real secret, the study did find a fascinating result: the eating and exercise habits of the "always thin" and "successful losers" groups were almost identical to one another. Both groups ate low-fat diets rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and made sure to eat reasonable portions at mealtimes. Both groups also did aerobic exercise regularly. Only 3% of the "always thin" group reported that they ate anything they wanted and never exercised.
Another notable finding was that over half of the respondents said that they had lost the weight completely on their own — no diet pills, programs, or medical treatments. These results mirror a previous Consumer Reports study, in which 83% of the participants who had lost and kept off at least 10% of their highest weights said they had done it alone.
Researcher Suzanne Phelan said in a statement, "[w]hen we've compared people maintaining a weight loss with (those) who've always had a normal weight, we've found that both groups are working hard at it; the maintainers are just working a little harder."