By Michelle Chichester
You’re working hard to lose the weight and get in shape. You bought P90X®, ChaLEAN Extreme®, Slim in 6®, Hip Hop Abs®, or fill in the blank. For some people, the results they’ve worked so hard for slowly disappear as bad habits return. Some wonder how “those thin people” can stay that way all the time.
In 1993, the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) was founded to study the behaviors of “successful losers.” Those studied lost an average of 72 pounds, with a minimum weight loss of 30 pounds, and were able to keep the weight off for at least 5 years. Looking at various studies on obesity, the researchers found 7 common factors among those who were successful in maintaining their weight loss.
Eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet. Those studied ate an average of 1,385 calories per day (plus or minus 557), with an average of 26.6 percent coming from fat. Although 26.6 percent from fat may seem high to you, it is lower than the typical American’s diet, which consists of simple carbs and ready-to-eat, low-cost processed food. Also, the researchers found that fast food visits were limited to less than ONE per month (step away from the fries!).
Participating in a high level of physical activity. Those studied burned an average of over 2,600 calories per day. This calorie burn came from doing normal, everyday physical activity, including a lot of walking. In fact, over 75 percent of the participants included walking as a form of exercise, with 48 percent of the total participants adding walking to other forms of exercise. Think it can’t be done? The next time you go somewhere, try parking a little farther away and walking, take the stairs instead of the elevator, get off the bus or subway one stop sooner, or walk the dog around the block the next time you want to reach for a snack. It’s a great way to get in a little more exercise time.
Limiting TV viewing. I heard something great the other day. Someone said that they had always made excuses about not having enough time to exercise. Yet, they always fit in 3 hours of TV viewing every night. Instead of plopping down in front of the TV at night, try to find other things to do. Why not take this time to pop in your favorite exercise DVD? Take a walk with your kids, read a book, or take a class. Not only will it get you moving, it also stimulates your brain in a way that TV viewing can’t. It can also kill that urge for mindless snacking while watching TV.
Eating breakfast. Those studied rarely skipped breakfast. After “fasting” all night, your body actually needs the energy that a healthy breakfast can provide. Eating breakfast makes you less likely to grab that pastry in the kitchen at work or run out for fast food at lunchtime. It also keeps your metabolism going, so that your body doesn’t shift into the “protect and conserve all fat” mode.
Maintaining dietary consistency. To the successful weight losers (or winners!), “diet” is not a bad word. They are always consistent with how many calories they are eating. There is no “cheat” day or falling off of the wagon during holidays or vacations.
Maintaining a high level of dietary restraint. This goes along with factor #5. Those who are successful at weight loss are always conscious about the types of foods that go in their mouths. When you are trying to maintain your hard-deserved weight loss, be conscious of the types of foods you are eating. One hundred calories of your favorite candy treat are not the same as 100 calories of a protein shake. But, if you “mess up,” don’t beat yourself up. Those who are successful at keeping the weight off jump right back in where they left off, which leads us to the last common factor . . .
Frequent self-weighing. Seventy-five percent of those looked at by the NWCR weighed themselves at least once a week, with almost half (44 percent) weighing in every day. This allowed them to keep track of any weight gain (or loss) and to address it before it became a “big” problem. Also included in this self-monitoring behavior was the continued counting of calories and fat grams. This continued “reinforcement” goes a long way toward keeping you on track for a slimmer today and healthier tomorrow.
Sources: Butryn, M.L., et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007; 15:3091–3096.; Catenacci, V.A., et al. Obesity. 2008; 16:153–161.; Gorin, A.A., et al. International Journal of Obesity. 2004; 28:278–281.; Klem, M.L., et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1997; 66:239–246.; Klem M.L., et al. Health Psychology. 1998; 17:336–345.; Phelan, S., et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007; 15:2470–2477.; Wyatt, H.R., et al. Obesity Research. 2002;10:78–82.