Surveys Reveal Half of New Year's Diet Resolutions May Already be Faltering - and How They Can Recover

Survey's surprising conclusion: Focus less on weight and you'll lose more of it!

Jan 19, 2011, 11:18 ET from

CINCINNATI, Jan. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --, America's largest weight-loss website, today announced the results of a survey of over 2000 SparkPeople members, which identified seven actions ("Seven Secrets to a Strong Start") that people can take – and others they should avoid – in the first two weeks of a weight-loss regimen to ensure initial success and generate momentum toward achieving long-term goals.  This survey will be especially vital for half the population of dieters whose New Year's weight-loss resolutions are already endangered species.  A previous SparkPeople survey found that 50 percent of people lose their momentum within two weeks of starting a weight-loss regimen, and 18 percent within three days.  Losing momentum usually translates to another year of "what might have been."

The survey found that 'strong starters' lost twice as much weight in the first two weeks and were five times more likely to reach their goals than 'false starters.' Almost half of strong starters lost five or more pounds in the first two weeks; the remainder, 2-4 pounds. Sixty percent of false starters lost one pound or less during their first two weeks and fewer pounds over time than strong starters.

"By now, two weeks into 2011, we know that half of all the hopefuls who made New Year's weight-loss resolutions are already losing both momentum and confidence that they'll make good on them.  But there's a better, saner, proven way to hit the reset button and get off to a strong start that can give them unstoppable momentum," said Nicole Nichols, SparkPeople's certified personal trainer, managing editor and co-author of "The Strong Start Guide," an all-new 30-page supplement in the new paperback edition of the New York Times bestseller, The Spark, where the full survey results can be found.

The survey's most counter-intuitive findings?  Focus less on weight, and you'll lose more of it.  Those who made weight loss their number one goal were less successful in losing weight than respondents whose number one goal was "building a strong foundation of healthy habits."  Those who weighed themselves weekly were more successful than those who obsessed over the scale daily.  Additional counter-intuitive findings: Those who did shorter workouts were more successful than those who did longer ones, and those who refused to put unhealthy foods "off limits" were more successful than their counterparts who did.    

"This survey confirms something we've seen anecdotally: that obsessing about the numbers on the scale can actually make them rise," said Ms. Nichols.  "The results affirm, 'Everything in moderation!'  Typically, you'll do better if you exercise moderately, have treats in moderation, leave the scale alone for a week, and make moderate, healthy, sustainable changes in your habits over time.  Making dramatic shifts to rigid diet and weight-loss regimens, and setting unrealistic goals for quick weight loss, is a recipe for burnout, failure and 'Maybe next year.'"

Survey Details


SparkPeople e-mailed a 45-question survey to a sampling of our 9 million members to learn which strategies and techniques the most successful members incorporated to get off to a strong start during the first two weeks or a weight-loss regimen.  

Strong Starters vs. False Starters

The most successful members, or "Strong starters," felt they had a good start, reported meeting their initial expectations, and consistently lost weight for at least eight consecutive weeks. "False starters" did not feel good about the start of their programs and failed to meet their expectations for their first two weeks.

Seven Secrets to a Strong Start

  1. Track Food and Calories:  Both strong and false starters ranked "food tracking" as the one action that made the biggest difference in their programs. 82% of strong starters tracked food every day vs. 65% of false starters, and strong starters were twice as likely to track their calories
  2. Don't put certain foods off limits:  Strong starters were less likely to label foods "good" or "bad" and forsake certain foods, and were three times more likely to use portion control techniques that supported consumption of unhealthier foods in moderation. 
  3. Spend LESS time exercising:  Strong starters exercised for 30 minutes during the first two weeks; false starters for 60 minutes, suggesting that false starters burned themselves out.
  4. Focus on both diet and exercise: 74 percent of false starters made both fitness and dietary changes from the outset, compared to 50 percent of false starters.  
  5. Engage more with others/have a support network. Strong starters were more than twice as likely to communicate with other members online.  
  6. Weigh yourself weekly, not daily: Most strong starters weighed themselves weekly, while the majority of false starters did so daily.  
  7. Focus first and foremost on developing healthy habits, not losing weight. Most strong starters viewed their #1 goal as "building a strong foundation of healthy habits."  A majority of false starters made losing 3-4 pounds in their first two weeks their #1 goal, which backfired. 


Headquartered in Cincinnati, SparkPeople is a multi-platform media and technology company with a network of leading health, fitness and food websites. Its mission is to help millions of people reach their goals.   SparkPeople is employee-owned, with one outside minority investor, AOL Founder Steve Case.  With 25 full-time employees and over 9 million members in more than 100 countries,, which is free to join, has averaged 121 million page views, 4.8 million unique visitors and 13 million visits monthly in 2010, according to Google Analytics.  According to comScore, SparkPeople has been America's most visited and active weight-loss website in 2010.  In 2010, SparkPeople was called, "The Facebook of Dieting" by Fortune and "The Online Program That Works" by Good Housekeeping.  SparkPeople's websites, including,,,,, and are attracting nearly 225,000 new members a month.  

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