Food Is a Numbers Game

ByABC News via GMA logo
January 28, 2005, 1:15 PM

June 2, 2004 -- Lee Allen just doesn't look at fattening foods the same way anymore.

Before losing 50 pounds, he saw high-calorie, low-nutritional-value foods as simply a delicious meal or snack. But now that Allen is slimmer and wiser, he looks at all food as a numbers game: How many calories does it contain and how long would it take to burn off said calories on the treadmill, Stairmaster or exercise bike?

"I look at a piece of food on the table, I say, 'There's 500 calories, that's 45 minutes, on that machine,' " Allen said.

The battle of the bulge has become a nationwide war, and as American waistlines expand, so do the costs of obesity-related disease, which add up to about $100 billion a year. As Americans spend about $33 billion annually on weight loss products and services, a 10-year study called the National Weight Control Registry has tracked more than 5,000 participants to see how they lost weight and, better yet, how they kept it off.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health and headed up by Dr. Rena Wing, director of The Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., the study collects and analyzes data from successful weight losers. Allen was one of 12 participants from the Boston and Providence-area who spoke to Good Morning America. As a group, they have lost some 950 pounds, and all said the key to their successful weight loss was to stop thinking of weight loss as dieting and instead think of it as a lifestyle change.

"The magic bullet is hard work," Wing said. "It's changing your whole lifestyle, to a healthier eating and exercise approach to living. And that's the only magic bullet we have for long-term weight loss."

The study found that women tend to lose weight in groups, while men tend to lose weight on their own. The dozen subjects are just a fraction of the 5,000 participants in the study, but their backgrounds and weight loss strategies mirror that of the group.