Saturday, September 10, 2005

National Weight Control Registry Somewhat Biased Against Low-Carb Losers

Drs. Rena Wing and James Hill co-founded National Weight Control Registry to observe lifestyle habits of successful weight reducers

In late July 2005, I signed up to be a part of the National Weight Control Registry being conducted by Dr. Rena Wing and Dr. James Hill, co-founders of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

To be eligible for inclusion in this registry, you had to have lost a minimum of 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year. Since I lost 30 pounds in just my first month of livin' la vida low-carb, then that means I have maintained that weight loss now for over one year and eight months. Yippee!

When I previously blogged about joining the National Weight Control Registry, I had just received the forms to fill out and was awaiting the first set of questionnaires to fill out. Those arrived in my mailbox on Friday and I'll keep getting these until 2010 from the researchers.

In the introductory letter that accompanied the questionnaires, researchers Dr. Wing from Brown University and Dr. Hill from the University of Colorado said their study will "help expand our understanding of successful weight loss and improve the health of people everywhere."

Imagine my surprise when I open the envelope and out comes 6 sets of pages all requesting information about what I eat, how I feel, what my weight history has been like, my general health, my philosophy about dieting, how much and how often I eat and much more. WHEW! It took me about three hours to fill out all these questions and one thing was incredibly obvious from the way these questions were posed. They ASSUME you are trying to cut down on your fat, calories and portion sizes.

Virtually every question asks something about fat content in the foods, how you feel about eating a restricted number of calories and whether you ever feel hungry because you portion-control your food. Imagine their surprise when they read some of my responses to those questions. Hee hee! It's gonna turn their study upside down! :-)

The food questionnaire wanted to know what kind of foods I ate, how often I ate them, and what the portion size of those foods were. It was the most arduous of the six sheets to fill out, but it should give them a good idea of what I am consuming to help me lose and maintain my weight. Interestingly, while they do list low-carb/low-sugar versions of foods such as Atkins bars, snack bars such as GoLower, bread, chocolate bars like Z-Carb, cookies, cakes, ice cream, and jelly, there is not a mention of "low-carb" or even "carbohydrates" throughout the rest of the sheets. Hmmm...

The weight history timeline asks for a chart of my weight loss from 410 down to 230 pounds. That was fun as I recalled the various dates throughout this process of losing and maintaining over the past year and nine months. It's been quite a ride!

Next was the demographic information wanting to know about me and my family's medical history and social habits such as smoking or drinking. I don't smoke and I don't drink, so neither of these are a problem. It also asked about my occupation to see if there were any aspects of my job that could have an effect on my weight. This was all quite intriguing.

Then, I was presented with a series of true/false questions regarding my personal philosophy on food and dieting. They are gonna flip when they see my answers in this section. It's probably NOT what they expect to see from someone who has lost weight and keeping it off I am quite sure of it. Some of these questions assume you are hungry all the time or that you will start to gain back your weight. Why do they assume that is the case? If they would simply ask questions about what is happening rather than what they think is happening, then the answers would be a lot easier to obtain and assess from the raw data they are given.

The eating, exercise and mood questionnaire got into the nitty gritty of when I eat and how much I eat. It asked about my emotional state of mind and how I handle stress which made me feel like I was being psycho-analyzed by Dr. Hannibal Lechter. LOL! But frankly I was taken aback by one part of this questionnaire that wanted to know how I would feel if I were to REGAIN MY WEIGHT over the next year.

Say what? Why would I do that? Is it just magically going to reappear on my body overnight where I don't have any control over it happening? Rather than answer an impossible set of questions like that, I simply wrote a big "N/A" to let them know it does not apply to me and I penned the message, "I'm not going to regain my weight, so these questions are a moot point!" Something tells me they're not gonna like that response.

Finally, the weight history questionnaire took a closer look at when, how and why I lost weight and have kept it off. It asked about my method for losing weight (low-carb), whether I incorporated exercise (yes, lots of cardio), what and how much I ate (low-carb foods and LOTS of them), and what I am doing to maintain my weight (I'm still livin' la vida low-carb, baby!).

All in all, filling out this first of what I expect to be many questionnaires about my weight loss and weight maintenance in the coming years was a very exciting process. Although I believe there is a very clear bias in favor of the low-fat/low-calorie/portion-controlled diet approach by the researchers, I am hopeful that they will remain objective and view however many of us low-carbers who are participating in this study as equally important as those following a low-fat or any other diet to control their weight.

They have even promised to periodically share the results of the study at their web site. If you would like to join the over 4,000 participants in the National Weight Control Registry, then click here. We'll keep you posted on any results from this research as they unfold.


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