Weight loss can be achieved through a variety of modalities, but long-term maintenance of lost weight is much more challenging. Obesity interventions typically result in early rapid weight loss followed by a weight plateau and progressive regain. This review describes our current understanding of the biological, behavioral, and environmental factors driving this near-ubiquitous body weight trajectory and the implications for long-term weight management. Treatment of obesity requires ongoing clinical attention and weight maintenance-specific counseling to support sustainable healthful behaviors and positive weight regulation.

In other words, remaining a healthy weight is very, very hard if you were previously obese - and most people will not do it successfully.

Since the pandemic began there have been renewed attempts by governments to reduce obesity . I wonder, given the difficulty of making it happen, has any society actually achieved it, and how did they do it? These articles talk about obesity, but I'm also interested in whether a society has achieved the same for overweight people who are not obese.

Of course famines have happened which led to people, presumably including obese people, either dying of starvation or having a significantly reduced weight. But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm asking whether any society has ever seen a large percentage of obese people achieve a healthy weight and maintain it for the rest of their lives. And if so, how?

  • 4
    interesting question, but what's the political angle?
    – Pete W
    Nov 24, 2021 at 14:40
  • 1
    @PeteW whatever the medical solution is, it needs to be implemented politically. If the way is with CBT like the article suggests, has any country successfully tried to do it? If the answer is severe restrictions on the amount and kind of food you can buy, that obviously has political ramifications - some people would be opposed to it whether it was the right scientific approach or not.
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 24, 2021 at 15:19
  • 1
    The data from Wikipedia's List of countries by obesity rate may be useful here.
    – r13
    Nov 24, 2021 at 21:13
  • Pretty sure the answer is no, but if the question was more broad, e.g. what have countries do to promote healthy living, then there are many good examples, e.g. the VAT in Sweden is lower on fruight, and other countries have special fat and sugar taxes. Nov 25, 2021 at 10:26
  • I cannot put it as an answer because I don't have enough evidence. But I suspect that the answer would be a big No because no government ever tried. The measures attempted by New York mayor addressed only a tiny part of the cause of the problem, more useful for publicity than anything else.
    – FluidCode
    Nov 25, 2021 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


Below is a bird-eye view on the obesity issue in the developed world. Collectively, the developed world hasn't successfully reduced or curbed the rate of increase, as pointed out by this study: "Today, obesity affects more than 300 million adults, the majority of whom live in the developed world. In the past two decades, the average level of obesity in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries has risen by 8%. Unlike previous centuries, where increased weight was a sign of improved health, the rapid increase in body mass index (BMI) over the past few decades indicates that a growing share of the population in developed countries is becoming obese.

There are many reasons behind the rapid increase, however, two have caught my interest:

  1. Technological innovations, which has gradually been brought to the attention by many experts, but the author challenges the effects, interested people shall read the article.

  2. Increased female labor force participation that has been related to rising obesity through changes in time allocation and food consumption. The proliferation of women in the workforce has meant that women are devoting more time to work and less time to food preparation, a trend that has increased their reliance on convenient food and fast food. Not only are such foods inexpensive, but also they have high caloric density to increase palatability, which can accelerate weight gain . Healthy food, by contrast, is less convenient, less accessible, and more expensive .

The second reason has somehow been reflected in a study of obesity in the US by race gender, and economic class. In the chart below, pay attention to the differences between men and women in each category.

enter image description here


Combining the forces/trends of both the technology innovation (automation), though disputed by the author, and the rapid increase in women labor force participation, the obesity problem will persist in human society for a long while, despite maybe some small, short-lived, success in combating it.


The US has put up many efforts to educate people about the risk of obesity-over weight, and measures to curb high-fat diet and sugar consumption, however, success is rare as the country still has more than 30% (actually 36.2% according to this this source) of its population considered obsessed. Let's assume 30% is the median, then, on the CDC map below, any state that has an obesity rate less than that can be considered a success. Hope this makes sense.

enter image description here


  • 1
    That's all very interesting, but none of it is answering the actual question.
    – Philipp
    Nov 25, 2021 at 10:07
  • 1
    Oh, and your thesis that female labor participation is to blame is not backed by the CDC article you linked. They show that obesity in women is negatively correlated with income and level of education.
    – Philipp
    Nov 25, 2021 at 10:13
  • @Philipp I don't prescribe to one or two reasons that contributed to the increase in obesity, but I felt the cited two reasons are the most dominant drivers in the trending up, and difficult to reverse. Did I say "correlation with income and education"? No, don't put words into my mouth. I cited CDC report mainly because it addresses "men vs women" of all backgrounds and the finding matches the previous citation - the influence of increased women participation in the labor force. In another word, the change in family structure in the US after WWII.
    – r13
    Nov 25, 2021 at 15:27

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