Who Succeeds at Losing Weight?

Losing weight and keeping it off is notoriously hard. Only 10-20% of those who try succeed. What is it that sets these winners (er, losers) apart?

A group of Dutch researchers recently analyzed 67 studies to see if they could identify the key characteristics, or determinants, of long term weight loss.

First, check out what doesn’t matter:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Weight history
  • How often you eat out
  • Your stress level
  • Willpower

That’s right. When it comes to your chances of achieving long-term weight loss, it doesn’t matter how old you are or what kind of neighborhood you live in.  Women, you have just as good a shot at it as men.  Your weight history does not predict your chances of success.  Stress is not a determining factor, nor is how much willpower you have.

What a relief!  Because most of those are things you can’t do much about.

So, what does predict success?  Your habits and your mindset. Specifically:

Habits that fuel success

  • Regularly monitoring your weight (because you can’t manage what you don’t measure)
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables (yum)
  • Exercising portion control (NOT restrictive dieting)
  • Choosing an active lifestyle (NOT exercising your brains out!)

Mindsets that fuel success

  • Confidence in your ability to make positive changes
  • Clarity on your goals and strategies
  • Feeling of self-worth (because you can’t hate yourself healthy)

Unlike your age or your health history, your habits and mindset are things that you have complete control over! And these are precisely the habits and mindsets that we create and reinforce in the Weighless Program.

Who is your support network? (And are they really supporting you?)


Change is hard. Even when it’s the best kind of change. The kind of change that you know is making your life SO MUCH better.

Even when you’re totally committed, it still takes effort to uproot ingrained habits and patterns. To recondition our thoughts. To rethink our environments. To lift ourselves out of those well-worn grooves.

Having the right support network is essential.

People who understand what you’re doing and why. People who share your vision and your commitment to weighing less. People who can hold you up when you feel tired and cheer you on when you soar.

Because the truth is, some of the people in your life don’t want you to change. It’s not that they don’t care about you. But they may feel threatened or challenged by the change in the status quo. Or, they may simply not understand what you need.

One of the most powerful tools in the Weighless Toolkit is our amazing community.  People committed to the same goals, experiencing similar challenges, sharing resources and support. A warm, caring, and wise community that is there whenever and wherever you need it.

It makes all the difference.

Being willing to do what it takes


Missed the first two installments? You can catch them here:

Knowing what you want and why

What will it take to get what you want?

How to stick the landing

One our members recently shared a Weighless victory…followed by a stumble that many of us know all too well.  Do you recognize this pattern?

“I just got back from a trip to New Orleans. The last time we went it was a  disaster of gluttony and excess. I gained weight, and also felt horrible. This time, I vowed, would be different. I posted notes saying QUALITY NOT QUANTITY all over my house for the week before we left.  On the trip, I ate everything I wanted to but small amounts of the less healthy stuff and I felt fantastic when we got back. Even better, I weighed the same when we got home as when I left. I was feeling very proud of myself!

“But then totally fell apart after I got home: Bad choices, constant snacking. This is not the first time this has happened. I successfully navigate through a challenging time and then completely fall apart when it’s over.  Why do I do this?”

Can you relate?  I know I can!

Last year, for example, I spent a month producing two podcasts a week instead of my usual one. It was an intense push. But I was really motivated. I really wanted to create a bit of a buffer for myself so that if something came up (a professional opportunity, a family emergency, whatever) I would have more flexibility.

And I succeeded in getting myself four weeks ahead!  But then, over the course of the next three months, I proceeded to blow my lead.  A week would somehow slip by without me recording a new podcast.  Not because something important came up.  Simply because my vision (and therefore my plan) for success only extended to getting ahead. It didn’t include staying ahead.

Don’t blow your lead

As any gymnast or ice skater will tell you, training for (and visualizing) the jump always includes training for the landing.

I had a solid plan for how I was going to research, write, and record two podcasts a week.  I scheduled work sessions into my calendar and I stuck to them. Triple Salchow! The problem was that I failed to make any schedule for the weeks that followed.  As a result, I failed to stick the landing.

So let’s say you set an intention to get through the holidays or a vacation without gaining weight. (In the Weighless Program, we teach specific strategies for enjoying special occasions or getting through crunch times at work without sacrificing your progress.) You put together your plan. You execute it like a champ.

You’ve done the Triple Salchow. Now all you need to do is stick the landing.

If you see the last day of your vacation or a holiday season or crossing the finish line of that race as the end of your “challenge,” it’s easy for things to fall apart in the aftermath.

Instead, as you plan to navigate the challenge, include the week after the trip or event in that vision.  Have a couple of healthy meals in the freezer so that you have good options available when you get back.  Get out your calendar and schedule in some exercise for the week after you get home.  Make sure you get back into the rhythm of your regular healthy habits. Stick that landing!

What challenges or goals are you planning for right now? What’s the plan for sticking the landing?

How does Weighless compare to Weight Watchers?

Someone in our community recently asked about Weight Watchers.

“I would love to hear your thoughts about doing WW alongside Weighless, or does that miss the point entirely? What about portion control help?”

We have a lot of WW alumni in the Weighless program and some of them continue to count points for a while but most find that the approach that we practice eventually makes this unnecessary.

In the Weighless program, you learn how to eat the right foods, in the right amounts, and for the right reasons. It seems to me that Weight Watchers teaches you to eat the “right” foods, in the right amounts, but for all the wrong reasons: The best food choice is the one that’s lowest in points. And the right amount is determined not by your hunger or level of satisfaction, but by how many points you have left for the day.

As I said in a recent podcast, being aware of the calorie density of foods and what appropriate portions look like is certainly useful.  But if that were all it took, well, WW wouldn’t have so much repeat business!

Choosing the right foods in the right amounts and for the right reasons also requires cultivating awareness and motivation, building solid habits, and developing skills and strategies to manage social cues, environment and emotional triggers, self-talk, and so on.
Becoming someone who weighs less involves more than counting points. But the good news is, as you become someone who weighs less, that sort of rigid accounting also becomes less and less necessary.


Categories FAQ

Healthy weight vs. happy weight

A while back, I asked a group of people who were considering enrolling in the Weighless program about their experiences, beliefs, and goals relating to weight loss.

One of the questions I asked was, “How much do think you’d need to lose to be HEALTHY?” The next was, “How much do think you’d need to lose to be HAPPY?”

The responses were absolutely fascinating–and offer a lot of insight into why so many of us struggle.

Before you read further, why not answer those two questions for yourself:

In order to be healthy, I’d need to lose ____________

In order to be happy, I’d need to lose   ____________

Read more

What it’s like to weigh less

Sure, we can tell you what the Weighless Program is all about. But perhaps you’d rather hear from those who are actually in the program? Here are just a few of the emails and posts that come in from our members over the last few months:

“As a physician who has always struggled with my own weight, I’ve tried many approaches over the years, and the Weighless program created by Monica Reinagel and Brock Armstrong has been the most successful and has simply made the most sense, based on the way the body and the mind work. To be healthier, we have to change a lifetime of habits. Monica and Brock give us actionable steps, one at a time, that help us feel better about living better. This led to changes in my behaviors that I now want to continue, rather than looking forward to the end of self-deprivation. I couldn’t be happier with my own progress this year or the road ahead: slow weight loss–the best kind–and feeling good about myself.”

“This has been the best long-term weight & health management program I have have used. It’s educational and comprehensive. Thank you Monica and Brock for all the time, research, and dedication put into the Weighless program!”

“I remember one year ago the pain and despair I felt around food. It was so exhausting to be in conflict constantly between “long-term goals me” and “Instant gratification me”. And now I’m just me! I haven’t felt the “ah, screw it” mentality in about 6 months!  I am just so proud and happy. I truly do feel free! ?”


“Things are going incredibly well for me, I look forward to every Friday’s new content. I’ve lost 8 pounds and it feels like it’s been easy. I’m the lowest weight I’ve been in 6 years! I still have another 10 pounds to go but that seems so achievable right now.

“I really think having knowledgeable, experienced professionals to guide me is making a big difference.  It’s one thing to know what I should do–but quite another knowing how to actually do it. I’m really pleased I signed up for this! “

“I just wanted to say how grateful I am for this program. I was hemming and hawing about joining – it was a lot of money to put forward on something unknown but I am SO glad I took the plunge. Five months later I am 15 pounds lighter without any dieting, deprivation, or food anxiety. I feel fantastic. I’m wearing smaller clothes, I have more energy, and I just feel more like the real me.

“When I think about my weight watcher years – the guilt, the starvation before weigh ins, the food obsession that came with tracking and measuring each ounce, the fear of ‘blowing it’ if I ever strayed – it’s a huge weight off my shoulders as well to drop all of that and just live a healthier life overall. Of course I’ve had to make changes, but they were on my own imperfect terms and at my own pace.

“So I just wanted to throw out a big thank you to Monica, Brock and all of you for your advice, talking me through my rough patches and keeping me focused on the big picture. You are all amazing. Looking forward to continuing this journey together!”

“I absolutely feel like I got everything I needed in the program.  I feel great now — I have ditched an impressive collection of diet books. I am done dieting forever and have the healthiest attitude about weight and food that I have had in my entire life.  Brock and Monica are so accessible—it’s a very personal program.  It’s been a life changing program for me. “

The Weighless program has been life changing because it has taught me to begin to change  in small and significant ways. The alluring fantasy that quicker change is better change has been so destructive for me.  I see now that it isn’t even quicker in the end. “


“I’m so very thankful for the Weighless program! I decided to try on a dress that I’ve always considered my “goal” dress and lo and behold it fit!!! My sweet husband said, “Wow, it’s so great to see you lose weight and get fit without dieting!” Life has been been chaotic the last few months, but I discovered the Weighless principles work no matter what is happening, especially as they become a way of life. I’ve learned so much from Monica, Brock and all of the wonderful members of this group!”

“It’s been more than three and a half months since I finished the Weighless year and I wanted to let you know that I’m delighted with how I’m continuing to progress. I’ve actually lost more weight since we finished without really seeming to try (don’t get me wrong, I’m being mindful but it seems like a lot of the lessons from the weightless year are embedded rather than effortful).

“I have never felt so confident in my ability to take care of my own self and my own needs. It’s actually impacting several areas of my life and I am so so grateful. I have lost weight, obviously, maybe dropped 2-3 dress sizes but more important is the perspective, skills and confidence I have gained. For the first time in my whole life I don’t feel like I’m my own worst enemy. I’m proud of myself.

“I will always be grateful for this gift you have given me and am hopeful (I know the tools are there to identify any slippery slopes before they get too out of hand! ) that I can live this way for the rest of my life.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for creating this amazing program. There are so many words to describe it – transformative, liberating, amazing, brilliant….I could go on. You have truly changed my life for the better. You have also helped me to model a more positive message for my two young daughters and for that – I am eternally grateful.”

“This past week, I saw people I haven’t seen in a while and a few noticed that I’ve lost weight.  On the numerous times when I’ve done Weight Watchers, I would lose the first 10 pounds in the first two or three weeks, and no one would EVER notice. I guess there’s a big difference between losing 10 pounds of fat in a healthy way and losing 10 pounds of god-knows-what in an unhealthy way. I haven’t spent the last three months weighing and measuring and depriving and monitoring like crazy. I’ve just spent the last three months living my normal life, with a few tweaks here and there.”

“The thing that amazes me most is how enjoyable this new lifestyle is. I don’t feel deprived, or like I’m having less fun (which is what I expected). If anything I feel more energetic and joyful. I would never have believed it 6 months ago.”

“Instead of making food choices in order to lose weight (Snackwells, anyone?), I’m now making decisions that improve my health. It’s a pro-health and pro-me approach to food and life. And my resulting weight loss feels like a welcome side effect. It doesn’t feel like deprivation, so it doesn’t feel so exhausting and scary. This non-diet Weighless approach has been free from the backlash, setbacks, binge eating and guilt that has plagued me with diets.”

“So grateful for this program, for Monica and Brock, for all the honesty and empathy from everyone here. Back in July I couldn’t have fathomed weighing less without the suffering and guilt. I have really turned myself around from where I was then. Just today I had lunch with my dad at a place I hadn’t been to since the summer. At that time, I parked in a handicapped space! It pained me to walk and I got out of breath so easily. Today I happily parked in a regular spot, and was reminded of how far I have come. I’m down about 17 lbs, in smaller clothes, and moving so much more comfortably.”

“One of my favorite things about this program is that I do not dread special events.  I’m not waiting until all the planets align and there are no special events on the horizon to start a diet. I have navigated weddings, vacations and holidays without obsessing over food choices. I’ve made good choices and poor choices, but overall I feel much more in control of my outcomes.  No one indulgence is going to derail me.”

“Yesterday when I got home from being gone for the holidays,I stepped on the scale. I’m the same as when I left 2 weeks ago. A surprise, considering the haphazard schedule and occasional treats. Then it hit me. I’ve shed the yo-yo dieter skin. Last year and every previous year since God created the earth I’ve started some crazy new diet come the new year. Not this year. I’m happy. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m on the path that will take me there. Thanks, everyone! Happy New Year!”

Details for joining our next program are here


Postcard from the parking lot

As I turned into the parking lot of my local grocery store, I could see that competition for parking spots was intense. A snowstorm was in the forecast, after all. And there was a football game that afternoon. Cars were jockeying for position with their blinkers on, waiting for other shoppers to load their groceries and pull out. Others were circling like sharks, hoping to spot and claim an about-to-be-vacated spot before others could react. I could almost see the cloud of stress and frustration rising over the lot and rolling toward me. With a feeling of relief, I banked to the right, headed to the furthest corner and pulled into one of dozens of empty spots. I collected my empty grocery bags, locked the car door, and because I happened to be wearing tennis shoes, jogged the 200 yards to the door of the grocery store.

But so what?

Opting out of the parking lot drama definitely reduced my stress level. But, let’s be serious: Will the extra dozen or so calories I burned by jogging in from the corner of the lot make any meaningful difference in terms of my weight? Of course not. But it’s not about the calories I’m burning. It’s about the mindset I’m creating. Every time I purposefully choose a farther parking spot, or take the stairs, or jog across the street, I subtly reinforce (to myself) my identity as someone who chooses to be active, who makes healthy choices. And that spills over into so many other aspects of my life. Such as which foods went into the grocery cart once inside the store. What we do, say, and think really does affect how we see ourselves. And how we see ourselves affects what we do, say, and think. It can be a virtuous cycle or a downward spiral. So, the next time you find yourself questioning whether a tiny thing like parking further away from the door can ever really make a difference, remember that all of these small decisions add up to the person you are becoming. Spiral up, friends. #weighless