Do 95% Of Diets Really Fail?

Egis R.
4 min readJul 24, 2022
Image by the author

You know those people (mostly crazy anti-dieters but some dietitians too) who say that all diets come without the tiniest measure of success? That 95% of diets fail? Then you become discouraged and think what’s the point of even trying? Well, it’s a load of absolute gibberish.

You see, the ‘95% of diets fail’ thing is based on the 1959 clinical study of 100 subjects who were given a diet and… sent on their way to figure out whether chicken breast or those little blue tablets in the toilet are more nutritious. No guidance, no education. Nothing.

Forty years later, the New York Times interviewed the author of the study who went ‘I’ve been sort of surprised that people keep citing it; I know we do better these days.’ The doc is right. We can do better. We did better.

A diet is considered successful when as little as 5–10% of body weight loss is achieved. That’s when we see clinically meaningful improvements in health markers (source).

Relationship with amount of weight loss and various comorbidities
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And when you lose those 5–10% of body weight in a sustainable way, your chances of maintaining new body weight are A LOT higher than a widely quoted but imbecilic 5% success rate.

The 8-year weight loss study of 5,145 overweight adults showed that over half of the subjects lost 5% of body weight and 27% of the subjects lost 10%. Interestingly, of 825 individuals who lost ≥10%, 65% of the individuals maintained a 5–10% degree of weight loss at year 8. But here’s the kicker — the subjects in the study were randomly assigned into two groups:

intensive lifestyle intervention and usual care (diabetes support and education)
Image by the author

The intensive lifestyle intervention group was provided with comprehensive behavioral weight loss counseling over 8 years which included registered dietitians, psychologists, and exercise specialists. The usual care group received periodic group education only.

And because people in the intensive lifestyle intervention group had the right guidance, education, and accountability, they both lost and maintained more weight.

Egis R.

I’m Egis, an online weight loss coach who has heightened BS sensors for fitness & nutrition. Only evidence-based & sustainable fat loss.