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Book Review: Thin for Life by Anne Fletcher

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

Book: Thin for Life: 10 Keys to Succes from People who have Lost Weight and Kept it Off by Anne M. Fletcher
Genre: health
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication date: 2003 (revised and updated from 1994)
Pages: 415

Source: Purchased

cover of Thin for Life by Anne FletcherSummary: Anne Fletcher, registered dietitian and author of Thin for Life, noticed that weight loss research was decidedly pessimistic. Study after study of various diets showed that none of them worked particularly well, reporting things like “most people gain back the weight within 3 years of loss.” The depressing news, however, never reveals possible underlying causes like these:

  • The people who end up in research studies may be the most intractable cases. People who successfully lost weight on their own don’t show up at universities for comparative studies of diets.
  • Studies report average weight loss, masking the success stories that are hiding in the data.
  • Research studies assign diets to participants. It may be that most people lose weight when they get to choose and tweak their own food and exercise plans to suit their tastes and lifestyles.

Anne Fletcher decided that a better approach would be to examine people who successfully lost weight and kept it off. For the original book, she interviewed 160 people who she calls “masters” of weight loss. By the time of the updated edition, she was up to 208 “masters.”

Since the publication of the first edition, the National Weight Control Registry, a database of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least 1 year, has been established. Fletcher used data from that source as well as her interviews with the masters in this updated edition, further bolstering the case for optimism that people can and do lose weight. In 2002, when she was writing this book, there were 3500 registered. Currently, the National Weight Control Registry tracks over 10,000 successful maintainers.

She organized her findings into ten keys for success, starting with “Believe That You Can Become Thin for Life” and ending with “Don’t Go it Alone.” In between, she discusses a wide variety of eating approaches, exercise, positive self-talk, and how to stop lapses from becoming relapses, among other topics. The appendices include recipes and a diet — although there’s a nondieting approach earlier in the book and a lot of encouragement to find a plan that works for you. A theme throughout the book is that success in weight control and maintenance is an individualized pursuit. The stories in the book provide a lot of strategies to choose from in designing a plan of one’s own.

Thoughts: This is the second of two books I chose to help me with my New Year’s Resolution: figure out weight maintenance now that I’ve lost 70 pounds. So, I was most interested in the parts of the book that addressed the “for Life” portion of the title.

One point that was made several times is that we have to be careful about selecting a weight goal and be willing to adapt to a somewhat higher weight if the initial loss takes us to a scale reading that is difficult to maintain. Many people fail at losing weight because they refuse to label a modest weight loss “success” in spite of the health and other benefits that it brings. I’m maintaining my weight about twenty pounds higher than I originally hoped, but the benefit is that I’m maintaining this weight more easily than I imagined.

My weight loss journey took several paths, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at this news:

Maintenance is not static. What works at one point in time may not at another. But you’ll find new solutions to your problems. (p. 44)

Finding new solutions to problems was a frequent activity while I lost weight and apparently I can expect that to continue.

Key to Success #5 was the most interesting to me — “Nip It in the Bud: Break the Relapse Cycle.” Here are some of the many tips from that chapter on maintaining weight loss:

  • Set a maintenance range — many people maintain within a 5 pound range, which is what I’m aiming for in 2013.
  • Weigh regularly — I’m still weighing once a day which is what helped me see the scale reading as data that I plug into a spreadsheet rather than commentary on my character.
  • Establish a handful of strategies to employ if the weight creeps up to the top of the maintenance range.
  • Identify high-risk situations and plan ways to avoid them or cope with them.
  • Avoid perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking, and nebulous goals to do better.
  • Set short-term, specific, and realistic goals.

I also took note in the last chapter, Key to Success #10: Don’t Go It Alone, that research shows that support is as important for maintenance as it is for weight loss:

The studies consistently indicated that people who received therapist and/or peer support kept off more weight than did those without much support. Moreover, people who took part in multiple maintenance strategies tended to do better than did those who simply went through the behavioral program or who were involved in one maintenance strategy. (p. 290)

Appeal: Thin for Life by Anne Fletcher is a terrific book for anyone who wants to lose weight or maintain a weight loss. Both data and anecdote from successful maintainers provide strategies and inspiration.

Graphic for New Year's Resolution Reading ChallengeThis is the third of four books I’m reading for the New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge. Thin for Life supported my resolution to figure out weight maintenance.

The first book supported my resolution to think deeply about what comes next: Book Review: 2013 Create Your Incredible Year by Leonie Dawson.

The second book supported the same resolution as this book, figure out maintenance.

Look for a review of the fourth book in my challenge tomorrow.

logo for Foodies Read 2013This is my fourth of 14 books I intend to read for the Foodies Read 2013 Challenge.

Weekend Cooking meme graphicI’ll be posting this on Saturday to Weekend Cooking. I wanted to get it up earlier in the week to meet the January 31 deadline of the New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge. Check the Saturday post at Beth Fish Reads for more Weekend Cooking posts around the web.

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


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