8 Must-Know Facts About Weight Management

Setting out on a weight-loss journey can be overwhelming. Start out with these expert-backed insights.

a Latina and Black woman in workout wear stretch after a running workout in the park

Medically reviewed in September 2022

Updated on September 30, 2022

If you’ve ever tried to drop a few pounds, you know that there’s been a ton of ink spilled about the right way to do it. Eat fat, but not carbs. Eat carbs, but not fat. Exercise in short bursts—or in long, epic workouts.

That fact is, there are many approaches to weight management that don’t work, but plenty that do. The key is to take the necessary time to do your research and to build a plan that works best for your profile and lifestyle. Start by tapping the expertise of a trusted healthcare provider (HCP) or a registered dietitian.

To set you on course for developing a productive plan, here are eight approaches to losing weight that are supported by scientific evidence.

1. You’re more likely to lose weight with a program that provides you with meals or meal replacements than with one that gives general advice about food choices. If you have specific weight goals, having more structure regarding your meals is likely to lead to better results.

2. Small environmental changes can have powerful effects. “Environmental” changes in this sense simply refers to differences in what people do—as opposed to differences in their genes (which also affect how easy it is to gain or lose weight). So the amount of time you spend watching TV each day, for instance, or the distance you walk while doing errands, can have a big impact on your waistline.

So does the way you set up your home for healthy eating. That might mean stocking your fridge and pantry with fresh, whole foods while limiting packaged, processed items—not to mention making healthy choices when eating out and cooking at home as often as you are able.

3. Following a specific eating plan—such as a Mediterranean-style diet—can work, but trying to diet and actually cutting calories are not necessarily the same thing. This may seem obvious, but making seemingly healthy food choices, like adding veggies to your meals or eating breakfast every day, only helps with weight reduction if they are accompanied by an overall reduction in daily calorie intake.

4. Physical activity does help with weight management. Getting off the couch has a range of health boons, including improved mood and strength and a lower risk of diseases linked to obesity. Just remember that even if the number on the scale doesn’t move much, you can still take advantage of the benefits of exercise.  

5. Maintaining your health and a healthy weight is a lifelong commitment. No matter how you manage your weight in the short-term (and how much weight you lose, if that’s your goal), you can’t just make an initial effort and forget it. You’ll need to keep making healthy choices if you want to maintain your weight for the long haul.

6. For higher-weight children, the most effective healthy lifestyle efforts involve the whole family. Just as having a partner working toward the same goal can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, having a family committed to the effort helps all members. Family members fare best when everyone is on board, making changes and giving support along the way. Programs at school or in camp are often powerful supplements, but a good foundation often begins at home.

7. For the appropriate candidates, weight-loss surgery can be an effective option. Not only are these procedures effective, but they can decrease the risk of diabetes and reduce the likelihood of dying prematurely.

8. Some weight-loss medications are worth trying. If you need some extra help, certain prescription weight-loss drugs can help you achieve clinically meaningful results—enough to make a real difference to your health. And they may help you maintain the reduction as long as you continue to use them.

The key is to remember that medications shouldn’t be your only approach, and it’s important to take them only after consulting with an HCP and understanding their full range of potential risks and rewards. Medications shouldn’t replace a healthy diet or regular exercise, and—like other approaches—work best as part of a holistic program that looks at weight management from the various dimensions of a full life.  

Article sources open article sources

Davis LM, Coleman C, Kiel J, et al. Efficacy of a meal replacement diet plan compared to a food-based diet plan after a period of weight loss and weight maintenance: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2010;9:11. Published 2010 Mar 11.
Lee MH, Applegate CC, Shaffer AL, Emamaddin A, Erdman JW Jr, Nakamura MT. A feasibility study to test a novel approach to dietary weight loss with a focus on assisting informed decision making in food selection. PLoS One. 2022;17(5):e0267876. Published 2022 May 26.
Mayo Clinic Health System. 3 steps to control your environment and weight. May 28, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. Page last reviewed: June 16, 2022.
Chika Anekwe, MD, MPH. Can fitness counter fatness? Harvard Health Publishing. April 1, 2021.
Cleveland Clinic. Is Obesity a Disease? April 21, 2022.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals. A Family Approach to Weight Loss Is Best. Accessed September 30, 2022.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Helping Your Child Who is Overweight. Last Reviewed September 2016.
Carlsson LMS, Sjöholm K, Jacobson P, et al. Life Expectancy after Bariatric Surgery in the Swedish Obese Subjects Study. N Engl J Med. 2020;383(16):1535-1543.
Schauer DP, Arterburn DE, Livingston EH, et al. Impact of bariatric surgery on life expectancy in severely obese patients with diabetes: a decision analysis. Ann Surg. 2015;261(5):914-919.
Kashyap SR, Gatmaitan P, Brethauer S, Schauer P. Bariatric surgery for type 2 diabetes: weighing the impact for obese patients. Cleve Clin J Med. 2010;77(7):468-476.

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