Losing weight is difficult. But, it isn’t impossible. Losing weight and successfully maintaining weight loss can be done.
The National Weight Control Registry was established in 1994 to identify and study the characteristics of people who have lost weight and kept it off over time. The registry is tracking more than 5,000 people who have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for an average of five-and-a-half years.
What did these “successful losers” do to lose weight? And, what do they do to maintain their weight loss?
1. Weigh regularly. Weekly is probably best. If you stop weighing completely, it is too easy for a few extra pounds to turn into five or 10 pounds or more. But, at the same time, don’t weigh too often - sometimes the immediate feedback from the scale is not an accurate picture of true progress from day to day.
2. Eat breakfast. Seventy-eight percent of registry participants eat breakfast every day. Numerous studies have shown that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less than non-breakfast eaters. A healthy, balanced breakfast also seems to set a trend for good food choices throughout the rest of the day.
3. Eat a lower-fat diet. Not fat-free, but lower in fat. Less fried foods, fast food, salad dressings, creamy sauces, gravies, margarine and butter. Choose healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, avocado and olives in moderation.
4. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods are higher in volume and lower in calories. Fruits and vegetables also are good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals, but contain minimal fat.
5. Aim for reasonable weight loss - a goal of one to one-and-a-half pounds per week. It is easy to want to lose weight as quickly as possible. But research supports that slow and steady is the way to go.
6. Perform strength training. Strength training helps maintain lean body mass, which is one component of one’s metabolic rate. Seek help from a qualified personal trainer if you are new to strength training.
7. Eat a balanced diet including healthy carbohydrates, protein and good fat.
8. Plan meals ahead of time. Lack of planning contributes to many less-healthy food choices. Write out some meal ideas before your grocery-shopping trip, and spend a few minutes at night packing lunch and snacks for the next day.
9. Don’t skip meals. Our body needs consistent fuel intake to perform at its best. Registry participants ate, on average, four to five (smaller) meals per day.
10. Do some aerobic exercise regularly. Walking, jogging, swimming and cycling are a few examples. The most frequently reported activity among registry participants is walking.
Losing weight and maintaining it long-term is not easy. But, the improvements in health and quality of life make the hard work worthwhile. Starting small and setting reasonable short-term goals is a great way to get started.
Angie Tillman is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and director of the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.