I coined a term a few years into private practice: Weight Loss Maintainer.
This title was reserved for those who had demonstrated habits that allowed them to achieve weight loss success easily over the long term, which I defined as two years or longer. As we all know, losing weight is only half the battle; maintaining the loss is the other half.
Intrigued by the habits that differentiate yo-yo dieters from maintainers, my research led me to the National Weight Control Registry. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), established in 1994, is the largest prospective study of 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 investigate the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss. There are currently over 10,000 members enrolled who have lost at least 30 pounds each and have kept it off for at least a year. Study authors conclude that long-term weight-loss maintenance is possible and requires sustained behavior change.
Most of the subjects in the registry gained weight early in life. Almost half were overweight by the age of 11, 25% were overweight by the age of 18, and the remainder became overweight in adulthood. About half of the registrants had one parent who was overweight, and 27% reported that both parents were overweight, indicating that many participants may have had a genetic susceptibility to obesity. Thus, losing weight was probably even more challenging for them than for the typical adult trying to adhere to a weight loss diet.
Interesting statistics on the participants:
98% report that they modified their food intake in some way for the long term in some way to lose weight.
94% increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking, and an average of 1 hour per day reported
78% eat breakfast every day.
75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
Maintainers eat an average of 4 to 5 times per day
Based off the registry’s research, as well as other research conducted, I devised a list of the habits that define individuals who lose weight and keep it off.
Habits of Successful Weight Loss Maintainers
Be committed for the long haul
Successful weight management requires a sustained and lifelong commitment to healthful food selection, regular physical activity, and diligently monitoring weight. Any new dietary or fitness changes need to be sustainable for the long term in order for weight loss to be effective.
Physical activity matters! Research has shown that a high amount of daily exercise (60 minutes) is helpful to prevent regain of weight. However, anything is better than nothing! If you can’t get to a gym, commit to a 30- to 45-minute walk most days, and stick with your commitment.
Don’t stick your head in the sand!
While many individuals are scared of the scale, 75% of successful weight loss maintainers weight themselves once weekly, proving that denial is harmful in the long run. If you’ve overeaten and gained weight, there is no more effective tool than facing the facts on the scale sooner rather than later to help get you back on track.
Be realistic about your weight loss goal and expected progress
People who lost one to two pounds a week while gradually reprogramming their taste buds and lifestyle report the easiest time adapting to weight maintenance compared to people who dropped weight quickly on fad diets. Success may not be about reaching your ideal weight if you feel hungry all of the time and need to exercise fanatically; it’s about reaching your sustainable and feel-good weight.
Eat Real Food
Fad diets work in the short term, but they are not the way to keep weight off in the long term. Instead, most weight loss maintainers monitor calories and/or portion sizes, eat lots of produce and good quality carbs, eat breakfast, eat consistently, and take intuitive hunger and satiety cues into account.
Tamar Feldman, RDN CDE is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and a Certified Diabetes Educator and is co-founder of the app GI Trak. She maintains a busy virtual practice to an international clientele, specializing in balanced and sustainable weight loss and nutrition therapy for autoimmune and gut issues. She can be reached at 732-364-0064 or through her website: www.thegutdietitian.com.