6 ‘Secrets’ to Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

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successful weight lossSuccessful weight loss comes down to a few crucial habits.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve tried to lose weight one time or another in your life. Or 5 times. Or possibly 10.

And let’s face it, some of the news about diet attempts and success is grim. 95% of people who diet will gain back the weight, and many will end up gaining back more than they lost in the first place.According to the CDC, more than one third (36.5%) of Americans, nearly 73 million people, have obesity. Over 2/3 of the rest of the population are overweight and the now-current annual cost of obesity is $147 billion. It’s a national epidemic and it’s too life-threatening and expensive to continue to ignore.

While there’s plenty of debate on the best way to lose the weight and growing evidence suggests there may actually be a few good approaches depending on individual characteristics. The way to keep it off may, in fact, be less uncertain. This offers hope. Knowing how to keep weight off doesn’t mean it’s ‘easy’, but it does mean that today we do know a few things about successful weight loss. Successful weight loss is defined as not only ‘losing it’ but never ‘finding it’ again.

Successful weight loss is possible. But it takes a lot of hard work and means a lifetime of maintenance.

A Look at the National Weight Control Registry

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) has been tracking a group of people affectionately dubbed the “successful losers” for over a decade and a half to see what it takes to not only lose but sustain weight-loss over time. At first glance it seems like a backhanded comment to call someone a “successful loser”, but it may turn out to be one of the nicest compliments a person who struggles with weight could ever receive for her health. Since 1994 the NWCR, a collaboration between researchers at the University of Colorado, University of Pittsburgh, and Brown Medical School has become the largest real-time and over time look at long-term successful weight-loss maintenance. Given the prevailing belief that few individuals succeed at long-term weight loss, the NWCR was developed to identify and examine the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss hence them proudly receiving and being grateful for the nickname.To be eligible to be part of the registry, a person has to have lost 30 pounds and kept it off for at least 1 year. Today there are more than 5,000 members who have lost an average weight loss of 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years! Now that’s success and we all want to know how. Well, the NWCR researchers know.successful weight lossHaving followed and monitored these individuals who have beaten the odds of a society that favors fast foods and fast results, the steady, daily, methodical steps can really bring the permanent reward.

What’s their secret? Well, it’s not really even a secret anymore since the ‘successful losers’ are talking and researchers are sharing what unites them. While it’s expected that there is some variety in how NWCR members keep the weight off, remarkably the grand majority are very similar in their approach.

1.They follow a conscious diet that consists of lower fat, minimal sugar, and moderate portions.

2. They have an unshakeable commitment of at least 30 minutes or more of daily physical activity. No negotiations.

3. Nearly 90% eat consciously AND move frequently and regularly. 10% use diet alone and a mere 1% use exercise alone to keep the weight off for good. Diet and exercise.

4. They consume a consistent number of calories each day. When it comes to eating, the first meal of the day is mandatory. Nearly 80% of ‘team successful losers’ eat breakfast every single day and over 90% eat breakfast 5 or more times per week. And their average calories across the whole group may surprise you: 1,380 calories per day on average and they know this because they not only watch what they eat but record it too.

5. Research has shown that keeping a food record or diary has a significant positive effect on healthy weight loss and weight management. There are many online sites both free and for a fee today where you can track your intake and a good old-fashioned pen and paper work just fine, as well.

6. Another important behavior is getting on the scale. Successful losers weigh themselves. In fact, 3/4 weigh themselves at least once a week and many with even greater frequency. What you don’t know can hurt your efforts after all. Several studies have shown the same including a study just published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research that revealed once again that recording a weekly weigh-in (in this instance online) helps keep off the weight once it’s lost. This offers both accountability and consistency, both incredibly valuable tools in the pursuit of a healthy weight.

successful weight lossAnd let’s talk a little more about exercise. Many of us want to give it all the credit for helping with weight loss, but an equal number can’t find the time. Remember, only 1% of the successful losers do it with exercise alone, while nearly 90% do exercise daily along with watching their food intake. On average, these successful losers cover about 4 miles daily, burning an average of 2,800 calories weekly. And the most popular exercise? Walking for about one hour per day.

So simple in theory, but it only works with practice.

Simple? Well, not quite. Becoming a successful loser does take effort and not a tiny amount either. No quick fixes or empty promises, but then again isn’t there some peace of mind coming from an honest answer when you ask “what does it take?” And as important as discovering these keys to success, what’s perhaps most exciting is how members feel about their lives. A full 95% felt the overall quality of their life was improved with their weight loss and continuing behaviors and 92% gained more daily energy to live their lives. Conscious and portion-controlled eating; starting off the day with breakfast; moving preferably by walking for a total of an hour each day; and hoping on that scale at least once a week. . . without exception. Sounds like a recipe for success with limited ingredients and a long-life to savor it too.

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Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD

Wendy Bazilian is a doctor of public health, registered dietitian, American College of Sports Medicine certified Exercise Physiologist and freelance writer in San Diego. She is an expert advisor to the spa industry and co-owns Bazilian’s Health Clinic with her husband and business partner, Dr. Jason Bazilian. Dr. Wendy is co-author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean (Rodale, 2015) and author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale). Find her onFacebook and Twitter

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