If you want to know how to lose weight and keep it off, why not ask 5000 people who have maintained at least 30lbs of weight loss for over 12 months? Since 1994, Rena Wing, Ph.D. and James O. Hill, Ph.D. have maintained the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), an ongoing project that tracks people who have achieved long-term weight loss.
The information that the NWCR has identified over the years provides a valuable tool for anyone wishing to achieve weight loss success. While you may not like what the successful losers have to tell you, if you want to join them in success, here are some of the strategies they suggest you use.
Successful dieters don't go on a diet; they change their lifestyle. The overwhelming evidence points to short term results for short term dieting. In other words, if you want the weight gone for good, you have to change the way you eat - for good. Over half of successful losers get help through formal programs for their initial weight loss and then settle into an eating pattern for maintenance that provides just over half of their daily calories from carbohydrates, 19% from protein, and 25% from fats.
Know your carbohydrates and fats
When you aim for long term dietary changes, the types of carbohydrates and fats you eat make a big difference. Successful dieters increase whole grains, beans, fruits, and veggies and avoid refined and processed carbs such as white bread, cookies, and chips. High fiber fruits and veggies help them feel fuller on fewer calories.
Successful dieters also avoid saturated animal fats and eat healthier monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and canola oil, omega-3 fatty acids from fish, and some helpful polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and other plant foods instead.
Eat breakfast and don't skip meals
Almost eighty percent of successful dieters eat breakfast every day and try not to skip meals. Missing a meal increases the likelihood of developing uncontrollable hunger which leads to overeating followed by guilt and a downward spiral ending in quitting the diet.
Many successful dieters eat smaller meals five or six times a day. Eating every 3 hours prevents them from overindulging because they feel starving between meals.
Don't be too strict
Reducing food selections and quantities is better than trying to eliminate foods from your diet. Completely giving up foods you love can lead to binging. Successful dieters say the main focus is achieving long-term healthy eating. If a chocolate lover starts a diet saying he or she will never again eat chocolate, the diet is almost certainly doomed from the beginning.
Don't plan days off from dieting into your weight loss strategy. It becomes too easy to find excuses for extending days off until you are no longer dieting. Those successful dieters who did not give themselves a day or two off to cheat were one and a half times more likely to maintain their weight loss.
Plan for setbacks
How you deal with diet setbacks goes a long way toward helping you achieve weight loss goals. Successful losers say that they recognize setbacks and relapses as part of dieting and prepare a strategy to get back on track quickly. Above all, they say that not dwelling on a lapse is the key to sticking with a diet. Over time, the setbacks decrease and the going gets easier.
Weigh in regularly
Three quarters of successful losers weigh themselves at least once a week. Too often and the slow change in weight can frustrate you. Too far apart and you may miss small increases that can be reversed more easily if caught early. Successful weight losers tend to settle on a weekly weigh in schedule and keep to the schedule permanently.
Slowly increase activity
Ninety-four percent of people in the registry exercise daily with many of them maintaining an average of an hour each day engaged in some form of physical activity. Walking is the most frequently reported form of exercise and about one third of registry participants use a weight lifting program to increase calorie burning.
To begin with, most successful dieters report a strong aversion to exercise and developing a workout habit is usually harder than making dietary changes. However, with almost every successful weight loser reporting increased activity, the message is very clear about how important exercise is for weight loss maintenance.
The most commonly used strategy for increasing activity appears to be breaking a workout into small chunks and spreading it throughout the day. A five or ten minute walk two or three times a day, with gradual increases in frequency and duration, is an easy way to build up activity levels.
When do successful dieters find the time to fit in an extra sixty minutes of exercise each day? According to the registry, more than half of successful losers watch less than ten hours of television a week. Cutting back on TV also helps stop evening snacking.
Adopt a winning attitude
Perhaps the most encouraging information the registry shows is that weight loss success is achievable for just about anyone. The wide variety of registry participants dispels many of the reasons offered for people being unable to achieve long term weigh loss. Participants exhibit an array of genetic predispositions for obesity, medical and behavioral conditions, and social and financial situations. It appears the desire for success and a willingness to incorporate lifestyle change overrides all other factors and makes long-term weight loss success a reality for thousands of people. There is a good chance that many of them are just like you.