As the obesity epidemic in America continues to grow, so do the efforts of the commercial weight-loss industry. From diets and diet books to exercise programs and nutritional supplements, helping people shed pounds has become an increasingly popular market.

However, research has provided little supporting evidence that such commercial weight-loss programs end in success. In fact, the study indicated that, aside from Weight Watchers, no commercial program has published reliable data from randomized trials showing that people who participated in the program weighed less (after a few months) than those who did not participate.

The Study

The goal of the study was to find something deeper than mere advertisements of thin, healthy people claiming a program worked for them. Instead, researchers wanted to see:

Carefully controlled studies, spanning a couple of years Compared results of the success rate of participants to non-participants Unfortunately, these types of studies are almost never done and are not something the commercial weight-loss industry is willing to do. Therefore, the research team decided to take matters into their own hands and conduct studies, collecting what information they could on the prices, methods and success of nine commercial weight-loss programs, including Jenny Craig, eDiets and Overeaters Anonymous. Research involved:

Calling the companies offering the programs Searching medical journals for published papers Analyzing the data presented on company Web sites Of the 108 studies that assessed commercial weight-loss programs, only 10 met the researchers' criteria. Even the 10 studies that made the cut failed to report data for everyone enrolled in the weight-loss programs, presenting only the "best-case scenarios."

So if commercial weight-loss programs aren't proven to be effective, then why do people keep turning to them for help?

Suggested Reasons Why People Resort to Weight-Loss Programs

The mere idea of dieting may give people a positive lift -- simply declaring they are on a diet makes people feel better. People are empowering themselves and imagine themselves as new and improved and taking control of their lives.

Since being overweight is so penalized in society, it's an investment in one's future not to be fat. If someone is an ambitious person they'll do anything; even if the lost weight is gained back, people will do the diet again and again.

New York Times January 4, 2005

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

It's not surprising at all to me that researchers found little evidence nearly all commercial weight-loss programs are effective in helping people drop excess pounds.

Please understand that losing weight and building your optimal health doesn't have to be a pipe dream or require you to eat special foods you can only get at a weight-loss center. Nor do you have to apply for a second mortgage on the house just to afford a pricey and exclusive membership for a program that nearly always seems to ultimately fail anyway.

Fact is, regaining the optimal health you were likely born with isn't easy and it takes a lot of effort on your part to make that happen. However, by following the guidelines below, you will soon be on your way to achieving total health.

Guidelines to Achieving Optimal Wellness

Reduce (with the idea of eventually eliminating) your intake of grains and sugars. The body's storage capacity for carbohydrates is quite limited, so when you eat an excess of grains and sugars they are converted, via insulin, into fat. In addition, grains and sugars suppress the immune system, contributing to allergies, and they are responsible for a host of digestive disorders. They contribute to depression, and their excess consumption is, in fact, associated with many of the chronic diseases in our nation, such as cancer and diabetes.

Begin to modify your diet according to your body's unique metabolic type. This is the best way to start improving your diet and learn more about the right kind of foods you should eat. What may be healthy for others is not necessarily healthy for you and vice-versa. That's why eating according to your type is the proven way to ascertain which foods work best for you. You can discover your metabolic type right now by taking the free online metabolic type test. You can also learn more about eating properly and understanding your metabolic type through my book, Total Health Program.

Get moving on an exercise program -- even a 10-minute commitment three times a day will help! There is no shortage of literature documenting the major benefits exercise has on improving one's health and lowing the risk of diseases. Exercising is always key to keeping your body, mind and soul healthy. I suggest reading Paul Chek's book, How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!, a perfect complement to my nutritional plan. Chek's book challenges you to take control of your health and gives you the steps to designing your own individual nutrition and exercise program. You will find the many descriptive "how to" illustrations both easy to follow and implement into your exercise routine.

Improve your emotional health and well-being. It doesn't matter how devoted you are to a proper diet and lifestyle, emotional health is absolutely essential to your physical health and healing. That is why I suggest adopting the concept of my psychology tool Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is an energy psychology tool that uses acupressure techniques that can help you to channel your stress-related thoughts and leave you feeling calmer and more able to face your challenges. You can use the free EFT manual to learn this technique, or you can seek assistance from my EFT Series on DVD or VHS.

As you can tell, these four areas make up the foundation that maintains total optimal wellness. Each area is interrelated and is equally important to one another. My treatment approach focuses on preventative health care, which simply means I help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but work to prevent it too.