Study Suggests We’re Doomed to Stay Fat. Wait, What!?


We’re all screwed!

And we’re going to stay fat forever.

At least, that’s what a recent study conducted by researchers at King’s College, London, suggested: “The chance of returning to a normal weight after becoming obese is only one in 210 for men and one in 124 for women over a year.” If the person is severely obese, the chances are even less.

Ruh roh.

It had me thinking that maybe we’re already doomed. After all, we’re doing all of this hard work, trying our best and making changes…and yet years later we end up back where we started. Crap.

And then I dug into the study.

And it gave me hope for Nerd Fitness and the Rebellion.

What The Study Revealed


“Of 278,982 men and women, the study found that only 1% of people who were obese at the start of the study were successful in losing weight AND maintaining the weight loss.”

The pointed out that the prescribed “count calories, eat less calories than normal, and exercise dutifully” failed 99% of people after 10 years.

There are two ways to look at this study:

1) Once we are overweight it’s nearly impossible to create lasting results. It’s like we are trying to hold back the tide, or fight an army of White Walkers with both hands behind our back. This self-limiting belief can crush us and convince us to give up.

2) Conventional medicine’s current strategies to tackle obesity are failing to help the majority of obese patients shed weight. A prescribed “eat less and move more” regimen fails to factor in dozens of other elements that create lasting change! Something needs to change.

But, as the home page of Nerd Fitness says: You don’t have to take advice from the Dark Side. There’s a better way to get healthy, a way that creates actual change in our lives and long term results.

After all, we have a MASSIVE community of people here in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion who HAVE drastically changed their lives, so what’s going on here? We are the Watchers on the Wall, and we are fighting off the white walkers – how are we getting results while most of the mainstream are stuck on this up-down roller coaster?

As we have seen through countless studies, YES: consuming less calories than you burn – and continuing eating that caloric deficit for an extended period of time – will result in weight loss for a strong majority of people.

This is where most of the mainstream advice that those 278,982 people were following stops. Implementing strategies such as diets does result in people having short term success. We’ve even seen a turning of the tide here in America, where we’re finally starting to consume fewer calories as a whole.

It’s not so much that this advice doesn’t work (it does!), it’s that this is only one part of a much bigger picture). In turn, they’ve failed in ACTUALLY getting people to follow their advice over the long term. And that’s the only thing that matters.

As Morpheus tells Neo, “There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” 

Frankly, the results in the study don’t surprise me! I get emails daily from people saying “Steve, I know what I need to do, I just can’t get myself to do it.”

Here at Nerd Fitness we understand what it takes to implement something for the long haul:

Instead, modern medicine is telling people to move more and eat less without the rest of it. It’s obvious this is a recipe for failure: when your environment is working against you at home, when society is designed to make eating healthy so difficult, and when your social circles are working against you, of course only 1% of people are going to succeed.

That would be like trying to: 

Sure, it’s possible. But less than 1% of us can actually do it! If we look at our success through that lens, it’s clear we’re failures… but we can adjust the constraints to work FOR us rather than against us.

Or, in gamer terms: why not just press the damn A button?!

Let’s learn how.

Use all your tools


I’m proud that the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is a group of average Joes and Jills who think differently. When I started Nerd Fitness seven years ago, I knew that mainstream diet and fitness advice sucked, and it wasn’t getting people lasting, long term results.

That was the whole point: rebelling against this insanity!

So, let’s take a look at how to use more than the joystick, and ensure that ALL of us get healthy. Like Batman with a fully equipped utility belt, we need to use all of the tools at our disposal in order to succeed long term:

Set yourself up for long term success with habits that last PERMANENTLY: This is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Once you understand how your brains work and how to build new habits, you can start attacking them with small, deliberate, permanent changes. If you struggle with willpower, you’re not alone. You have to understand how willpower works first!

So we start with tiny changes we can live with, and then we slowly expand them as we build momentum. We prove to ourselves we CAN change. “I just need to try harder” never works – you need to understand HOW to try, and then try smarter.

Diets don’t work. No, I don’t mean “the Paleo Diet” (which is a lifestyle change or nutrition adjustment, not a temporary diet). What I mean by “diet” is a temporary change to one’s life for a short period of time. You can also add things like juice cleanses and detoxes to this list, also known as destroying yourself 90 days at a time unsustainably. I cover all of these popular weight loss tactics that perfectly fall under the reasons 99% of people struggle to keep weight off a decade later.

We don’t do short term changes; our goal is long term, permanent solutions. We need to be deliberate in our efforts to change our lives: this is not a short term fix. It’s a fundamental adjustment to how we make decisions daily that sets us up to succeed.

Build an environment that supports you: We are products of our environment, and we are affected by everything around us subconsciously all day long. For that reason, like Bruce Wayne and his Batcave, we too need an environment that creates effortless success for us rather than tempting us back to the darkness.

We know that really focusing on hacking the source code of our lives can have a drastic effect on every decision we make, and can set us up to succeed long term:

  • We adjust our environment so we have to rely less on willpower to say no to certain foods: not keeping junk food in our house, not driving past our favorite fast food place, only going to healthy restaurants so we’re not tempted.
  • We set ourselves up to succeed by lowering the barriers between us and healthy choices. Sleeping in our running clothes, blocking time-wasting websites, preparing healthy meals for the whole week. We need to make our new default effortlessly “healthy.”

A great support system: Fighting this battle alone is like going up the toughest dragon in World of Warcraft solo – why not build a great team to fight alongside you? As the saying goes, “you are the average of the five people you associate most with,” so surround yourself with a killer Justice League.

We need people who support and inspire us to get healthier rather than drag us back down. If a great support system can cure drug addicts, it can certainly help with living a healthier life. It starts by surrounding yourself with people that care and want you to succeed, not sabotage your efforts.

We know that types of food we consume factor in greatly: consuming 600 calories of Twinkies is not a great long term solution compared to 600 calories of chicken, fish, avocado, and leafy vegetables.

In fact, most of the processed junk we eat today is designed to target certain parts of our brain that make us say “MORE MORE MORE” – if you’ve ever eaten one of something and then can’t get yourself to do anything else until you’ve eaten the whole bag, you know what I’m talking about. It’s tough to restrict calories when your brain has been hijacked!

If you want our nerdy take on this, read: “Star Wars Explains Why We’re Fat.” 

We CAN win.


I know we have a lot of people reading Nerd Fitness who are just getting started on their weight loss journey, many of whom who probably have gone up and down in weight for years (wondering if it’s hopeless).

This study is going to divide people into two camps:

  • I knew it. This is why I can’t lose weight – I’m doomed! Why bother! I’m off to McDonald’s.
  • Okay, clearly something’s not working. I need to try something different. I need to try smarter, not harder.

I have a hunch most of society probably fits into Group A, and most of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion fits into Group B.

I’d love to hear from you:

Have you successfully defeated the evil forces of long term weight gain?

Did you fail one way before succeeding in another?

If you’ve struggled, what keeps you trying? And how are you trying differently?



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    42 thoughts on “Study Suggests We’re Doomed to Stay Fat. Wait, What!?

    1. Somebody better get rid of that donut before I do. 🙂

      Thanks for the inspiration as usual Steve!

    2. That’s not a donut! It’s a German Berliner/Krapfen/Pfannkuchen! 😀 (different names depending on your location, I grew up calling them Berliner, Bavarians call them Krapfen, people from Berlin call them Pfannkuchen). They are sweet, fluffy, deep-fried buns filled with jam (often some red berry mix, but that again depends heavily on the location) and covered in sugar or powdered sugar. So… yeah, they are very similar to donuts, but although they have been deep-fried they seem to be fluffier and not as fatty as donuts. They are available year-round, but have high season in January/February for “Karneval/Fasching”. At that time, bakers get really creative with fillings, some even alcoholic. I truly loved these things and am sad that I’ve become gluten intolerant *wipes away a tiny tear*
      Aaaaaanyway: thanks for this post, Steve. I have been diagnosed with an annoying illness that makes losing weight very hard and for the longest time I was in the “if I can’t lose weight, why bother anyway!”-camp. I’ve come out of it only recently and am setting myself up for success now. I’m sure there will be struggles – who put that damn chocolate into my shopping cart?! – but the Nerd Fitness community is so wonderful and inspiring, there’s always someone to help me pick myself up again if I fall. I’m truly grateful for this awesome Rebellion! 🙂

    3. First of all I want to thank you for looking to hire a Rebel Family Correspondent. All of us with families (especially us with infants and toddlers) face different challenges than the rest of the group. I’m glad Nerd Fitness can see that.

      Second, I want to disagree with you. I think short term diets can be a means to an end (though a less healthy one) provided that you make a long term change afterwards. Most people fail short term quick fix diets because they revert to their old eating habits afterward and end up worse than how they were before they did the diet the 1st time.

      We live in an instant gratification society. When given a long term goal, many begin their weight loss journey and after a week or two don’t receive what they believe to be significant results and they get discouraged and quit. The diet didn’t work… Except they didn’t give it enough time. No instant gratification. A short term diet gives them the encouragement they need to push forward and if they make the long term switch when they hit their goal (or a checkpoint at least) they can be told to do this if they want to maintain. Is this the more healthy way of doing things… no. However, it’s another way.

    4. Should you ever be in the area, I’ll buy you a few 😀 Unfortunately shipping food is very restricted, or I’d send you some…

    5. Lost 80lbs (through Weight Watchers – who don’t really tell you any of the strength training advice so I turned out a bit skinnyfat but that’s why I ended up here) and have kept them off for over a year now, so I like to think it’s possible! Whether I’m in the 1% of that study – I’ll tell you in another 9 years, but certainly intend to be. Like NF, WW at least tries to teach you that you are *what* you eat and that it’s not purely calories in / calories out and makes you learn to love fruit and veg, meaning you end up eating better for life. I think that’s a big part of it.

      I won’t lie though, I still am a sucker for chocolate, crisps, pizzas and beer. I’ve not managed to achieve the holy grail of “I don’t even like that stuff any more, it’s too rich”. As it stands, if I didn’t continue to weigh in every week without fail, I’d quickly pile it all back on – it’s easy to lose track with “I fancy a treat this weekend”s. I’ve had weeks where I’ve put on as much as 3.5lbs but taken evasive action and lost them again the next week (not a good idea every week. But I’m pretty sure it’s water retention/loss when it’s gains and losses this huge) so I think for me it’s vital. Do that a few times and boom, all the weight would be back on in a few months!

      It’s probably a matter of finding the important thing for the individual when it comes to keeping the weight off, but if you’re not weighing in then how do you know how you’re doing? So many people say “k I’m done now” at goal and never look at the scales again. Sorry, I think if you want to be in that winning 1% who keep it off for 10+ years, the scales are for life. You may want to gain weight when bulking up the lean mass of course so it’s important to take into account composition and waist size etc and figure out whether any gains are muscle or fat, but without watching your weight I just think you’re playing your game without the monitor plugged in (besides, 3.5lbs gain in a week is probably not muscle, I’m thinking! So you’d know and reflect on “maybe having 3 treat days in one week wasn’t such a good idea…”)

    6. I’m gluten intolerant too. We’ll both just have to drool over them. But many thanks. 🙂 If you come to Detroit, we can drool over paczki together! 🙂

    7. Yeah I agree the short term diets can be a great head-start in a long term plan to follow through to goal and a lifetime of maintenance.

      I think the question is how many people do actually use them as a boost at the start of / during a long term lifestyle change vs. the apparent huge number just assuming you ‘go on a diet’ and that it stays off afterwards, or just do so for a beach holiday and wonder why it’s back on with interest afterwards etc.

    8. I was doing pretty good to sticking to my goals but then… I injured myself while cooking (making lunch for the next day and sliced off the end of my thumb). 4 stitches and they are anchored to my finger nail :-

      I was trying to work out my lower body at least… but when I got the blood flowing it made my stitches bleed… I was told by the doctor that I cant work out until they are out. in 2 weeks :-…

      That was about a week ago and for some reason things that have never really tempted me before I am finding I am giving in to. I have had 2 cookies and a doughnut in the last 2 days and before then… I think its been over 3 months since I have had any kind of baked good.

      I am also getting more and more frustrated by the fact I cant really use my hand and such a stupid injury has disabled me so much. -_-‘ Really looking forward to getting these stitches out as soon as possible.

    9. Dude! Have you any idea how much that picture of donuts has made me crave sugar?!!! I’ve been a perfect angel with my diet for over a week, and that picture has made seriously consider falling off the wagon!

    10. First of all, I love Nerd Fitness. I have been following for about a year now and always checking my emails for new ones or finding older posts that inspire me. I went paleo last year and dropped 40 lbs in just a few months then i began running and found that I absolutely love it. Well over the winter my running buddy decided to quit for a while until spring so I followed, my bad eating habits came back and I gained about 15lbs of what I lost back. I read one of the emails about if you fall off get back on and I thought to myself how great I felt when I was first on this journey and decided I was doing this for me whether I had a support system or not. So I’m back on and killin’ it. I devote my Sundays to prepping breakfast and lunches for the week. I make green smoothie packs that are ready to just dump in the blender add almond milk. For lunches I prep salads that I can just grab and go this helps keep me on track and not run to get fast food on my breaks. I make out a menu for all of my dinners and make sure I take out the meat I’m using and then when I get home I just pop dinner in the oven and make veggies for the sides. So I got the hang of this now started running 3 days a week and strength training in-between. I lost 12 of the 15 I have gained back. I made this a lifestyle change and still going strong. Can’t wait to be a Nerd Fitness success story.

    11. Totally understand Dude, I had a good daydream about those donuts and it kept continuing on and on. Being able to still sit here, and go okay yup I want it but in the end I rather not.

    12. Jut sitting here drooling over the grand description,one day I will gorge on them… one day…

    13. So, I also love nerd fitness, it did change my life and I am part of the academy. I still believe that study and the other similar ones. Frankly, what is the success rate of nerd fitness on weight loss 5 years after starting? Because that’s the real number, and I would be surprised if it were much above 1%. I still believe the advice here is great and it’s one of the best ways to do it, but I would require more proof to actually believe that drastic long term weight loss is achieved here with much greater success than the results of that study.

    14. If you are interested in reading some informative & helpful weight loss reviews and articles, you should check internethealth (dot) org

    15. Great article. I looked through that study and really had many of the same thoughts. What this study suggests is that conventional weight loss strategies rarely work in the long term. My question is why instead of looking at those who failed and throwing your hands up, why not look at the 1% of successful people at weight loss and see what’s different about them and what they do differently? My other question is there may be a health benefit to even a moderate term weight loss, by giving your body a break from carrying excessive weight so I wouldn’t discount those efforts.
      With something as complex as weight management, I can’t help but think that reducing it down to “calories in; calories out” isn’t either the entire answer or a long term answer. So many factors play into our weight. The effects of different calories, impact of environment on our physiology and behavior, changes in access to food, diet advice, the list goes on. I know for me, I had to address all of these to get healthier.
      One thought I have. I firmly believe in food addiction and believe I suffer from it. As a mental health professional that frequently treats drug addicts, I know first hand that we give people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction permission to radically change their lives to help them recover. In my career, I have not only given permission to someone who is trying to get clean but encouraged that people doing so to quit jobs, move, end relationships, stop associating with people, find new hobbies, drop out of college, go back to college. This list goes on. If someone trying to lose weight, no matter how obese suggested doing any of these things, they would be labeled with having an eating disorder. Isn’t compulsive over eating or food addictions just as dangerous?

    16. Hey Lauren,

      You and I have spoken before on the Academy pages. Can you send me some of the recipes that you have for green smoothie packs. I would love to have those on hand so I can do that too. My problem is that all smoothie recipes I have ever seen involve some type of powder (which I’m not a fan of) or bananas. If I eat too many bananas I have digestion issues, so I try to lay off them if I can.

      Any suggestions?

    17. Hi Matthew,
      I don’t have actual recipes I just buy different frozen fruit and berries in the freezer section. I also use coconut oil and chia seeds. I just lay out my sandwich size Ziploc baggies and I add a tablespoon of the chia seeds and add the frozen fruit then I add a handful of spinach or kale. Zip em up and them I put the baggies in a big freezer bag. In the morning I dumpmthe baggie into my blender with about a cup of almond milk and tablespoon of coconut oil and blend.. Super simple. I hope this helps

    18. Great article Steve 🙂 Also, I AB-SO-LUTE-LY LOVE your job applications. Alas, I don’t fit what your looking for (yet! 🙂 but still, a job application that requires you know the MK theme song (I assume you mean from the 1995 film). Few things can make me jam out and start beatboxing the movie theme on my desk, and that, Rebel Nerd Leader, was one of them 🙂 Hint for those who apply for the 2nd position- The 1st words are NOT the iconic Title Shout 🙂

    19. I struggle. Every. Damn. Day. It’s been a vacation for the last month and not having any routine and only being home half of that time makes it difficult to be strict. I want it, but according to fitness buffs, I don’t want it badly enough. However, when I do get after it I struggle and struggle to only see 5lbs of results. That sucks. Then I quit. Then I get mad for quitting and start again. Haha!

      Right now, I’m prepping for the school year by starting to count macros. I took the month of July off from things that stress me out (read: trying and trying to see a decrease in inches or the scale), but now ish is about to get real.

      I struggle finding consistent support. Most people when you say you don’t want to workout say, oh I don’t either. Or suggest getting a burger. Who can say no to a burger after a room of teenagers tell you how much they hate what you’re investing your life into? Obviously this isn’t every day. But, the excuses are ample.

      I suppose you try and try and it’s difficult to not eventually feel defeated. But, I still fall into group B. I know I can do this. Something just has to click.

    20. I think a frightening number of people think they are supposed to diet by giving up X for Y period of time and, once they lose the weight, they can eat whatever they want again. They don’t realize that it’s about changes for the long-haul.

    21. Hey Steve; Excellent post as usual.

      “Have you successfully defeated the evil forces of long term weight gain?”

      Yes, I do believe I have. I have been following the Primal Blueprint since May of 2014. I have lost 90 pounds in that time and have maintained ± 2 pounds for four months or so now.

      “Did you fail one way before succeeding in another?”

      Yes. I did lose a lot of weight using Medifast a few years back, but regained most of it very quickly. MF is a diet that works well for losing weight, but it is not all that healthy (pretty much artificial everything) and does nothing to help develop necessary good habits.

      A lifestyle change is necessary to achieve lifelong success. Following a Paleo/Primal lifestyle makes losing weight and getting into shape fairly easy, Nerd Fitness makes it fun. The support and encouragement found here in the forums is pretty amazing, and very much appreciated.

      If you are interested in seeing what I’m doing and where I’ve come from, look me up. jrosto

    22. Hey, Steve.

      Thank you so much for such an inspiring and insightful article. I have been recovering from an eating disorder, and when I started eating normally, my body put on a lot of weight. I went from being 85 lbs to around 139 lbs at 5 ft tall. So I’m technically classified as overweight now.

      Every time I try to follow a standard 1000 calorie diet (bearing in mind that I’m pretty much sedentary aka lazy with a bmr of 1400 something) that ends up in a disastrous binge of over 5000 calories. I want to be in a healthy weight range, but I can’t do it without slipping back into disordered eating behaviour.

      Recovery never taught me to build good habits or love myself. I still struggle from body dysmorphia and bad self-esteem. I feel really lost and I know I need to give up before I spiral out of control and start binge eating, but loving myself is hard. Who am I without the voice of my eating disorder? I don’t have a purpose for my life anymore. I don’t know how to be healthy without it turning to a disorder.

      Sorry, at this point I’m just rambling. This is really hard. It would be so much easier for me to love and accept myself if “fat” wasn’t such a bad thing in society’s eyes.

      Yours truly,

    23. If you are happy that is all that matters and that can’t happen till you love yourself. Don’t ask me how to do that but that is what you must do to fix everything.

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