80 percent of people who lose weight gain it right back. Here’s what the other 20 percent know.
By Samantha Dunn
Always Eat Breakfast
Try to get more of your food early in the day and less at night. Since 1993, researchers with the National Weight Control Registry have tracked more than 3000 dieters who have maintained a weight loss of 30 pounds or more for at least a year. Nearly 90 percent of the participants report eating breakfast at least four days a week.
Put More Movement In Your Life
Everybody knows that regular, sustained exercise is a must, but the incidental movements in life also add up. Chuck the remote. Make two trips to the laundry room instead of one. Park in a distant corner of the lot. Going to the gym twice a week won't cure a lifestyle that is sedentary in every other way. The good news: No fancy trainers are required. Walking is the most common exercise among registry participants, and they average 11,000 to 12,000 steps—roughly five and a half to six miles—every day.
Beware Big Food!
"We are portion-control challenged in this country, says Susan Buckley, a registered dietitian who has lost 70 pounds. Be guided by the number of serving sizes listed on a package. (A Coke has 100 calories per eight-ounce serving, but a 20-ounce bottle contains two and a half servings, or 250 calories; a snack-size bag of 150-calorie-per-serving Cheez Doodles is, believe it or not, two servings.)
How often are you working out? What and when did you eat today? "I toss my food journals when I’m done, but they keep me aware and conscious," says TerriLynn Clark, a registry participant who lost 35 pounds. Also, weigh yourself on a regular basis—most registry participants get on the scale at least once a week.
Plan For The Rough Patches
Stressful times can trigger you to go back to old habits, especially in the first six to 12 months after a weight loss, before the new habits take hold, says James O. Hill, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado, and a cofounder of the registry. So have a strategy in place (call friends, take yoga—anything but food) and write it down.
Take Small Steps After a Slip Up
If your weight creeps up, don’t do anything drastic. Cut dessert, skip wine with dinner, take another walk around the block. "Unless you take baby steps, it can be very frustrating," advises S. Alexa Singh, a registry participant who has kept off 75 pounds.
Make Special Occasions Count
"Before you walk in the door of a restaurant," says Susan Buckley, "think, 'Is this just a meal I don’t want to cook at home, or is it a special occasion?' If it’s the latter, go ahead and indulge, because such moments come only once in a while. Otherwise, you need to think about proportions and what you order."
Don't Wait To Get a Life
"I hear people say, 'When I lose weight, I'm going to do this or that' or 'When I lose weight I am going to start living,'" Susan Buckley says. Start doing now what you dream you will do. The rest will follow.
Researchers compared participants who basically followed the same diet every day with those who ate more on weekends and holidays than during the week. People in the first group were one and a half times more likely to maintain their weight within five pounds over a year.
Know It Will Get Easier
The longer you keep the weight off, research shows, the less effort it takes.
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