As if losing weight weren’t hard enough, keeping it off is often even harder. If you don’t want to spend the rest of your life yo-yo dieting, you’ll need to develop good, long-term lifestyle habits. Luckily, there has been a lot of good research done to help you know what works and what doesn’t.
The National Weight Control Registry at Brown University Medical School is a registry of over 5,000 people who have successfully lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year. Participants fill out detailed questionnaires and surveys to help researchers understand the behavioral and psychological characteristics of successful weight maintainers. Data collected from the registry helps researchers identify the most successful strategies for maintaining significant weight loss over time.
It’s not surprising that fads and gimmicks don’t make the top ten list of habits that will keep you lean. As it turns out, maintaining successful weight loss really is all about making good lifestyle choices every day. So here are ten habits to begin cultivating now.
- Control Your Portions. 98% of NWCR registrants reported that they modified their food intake in some way to lose weight. A 2004 study by E.E. Rogue in Obesity Research reported that portion control is the greatest predictor of successful weight loss. Knowing how to read nutrition labels and manage your portion size (especially when eating out) can make all the difference in maintaining your weight loss over time.
- Eat Mindfully. Eating mindfully is all about listening to your body and feeding your hunger rather than your emotions or your boredom. People who keep the weight off are better able to exercise dietary restraint by maintaining a high level of awareness about what they’re eating, how much, and why.
- Exercise. 94% of successful losers in the National Weight Control Registry increased their physical activity levels to lose the weight and keep it off. The most commonly reported exercise program is walking, with 90% of successful losers averaging about an hour a day of exercise.
- Weigh In. 75% of the registry participants report that they weigh themselves at least once per week. You don’t have to obsess about every ounce, but regular weigh-ins help you catch weight gains before they get out of control.
- Bring on Breakfast. 78% of the registrants who have successfully maintained their weight loss ate breakfast every day, while only 4% never ate breakfast. A healthy breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day and gives your metabolism a jump start in the morning.
- Monitor Your Intake. A study of dietary change in the Women’s Health Initiative (L.F. Tinker, et.al., Journal of American Dietetic Association) found that self-monitoring of dietary intake—keeping a food diary—was a strong predictor of maintaining dietary change over time. Keeping a food diary can be tedious and time consuming, but it’s often quite revealing, and it keeps you honest about your portions and your choices. If you’re trying to keep the weight off, consider logging your intake for at least one week out of every month.
- Kill Your TV. 62% of the participants in the National Weight Control Registry reported watching fewer than 10 hours of TV per week. It makes sense that time spent sitting in front of the TV (especially if you snack during your shows) won’t help you burn calories and maintain your weight loss.
- Ban the Binge. A 2004 study of NWCR participants by Gorin, et. al. found that successful weight maintainers were more likely to eat consistently throughout the week and the year, rather than fluctuating between dieting during the week and binging on the weekends or during holidays. A moderate, consistent approach to food and diet can help you reach and hold onto your weight loss goals.
- Keep Good Company. You may not realize how strong an influence your friends and family exert over your weight. A 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that obesity spreads through our social networks. The authors speculate that our social network helps determine our perception of obesity and accepted norms. So if your friends are overweight, you may not realize you have a problem.
- Stay Positive. The same study that found keeping a food diary was an important predictor of long-term weight loss success also found that a positive attitude helps keep the weight off. People who felt in control of their weight and had positive expectations and a sense of empowerment were more successful at changing their behavior and keeping the weight off.
It all sounds so easy when it’s compiled in a list like this, but if you’ve tried and failed to keep the weight off before, maybe you’ve missed some of these simple essential strategies. Bottom line, maintaining a healthy body weight is all about making good choices day after day. It’s not about extremes or deprivation, but about achieving healthy moderation consistently over time
What strategies have helped you maintain your healthy weight?
(photo credit: norwichnuts)