There is more to getting healthy and fit than simply losing weight. You must also make the permanent lifestyle changes that are necessary to keep the weight off. If you fail to do so, as many dieters do, you wind up on the diet seesaw, losing and gaining back the same weight over and over.
So what does it take to not only lose the weight in the first place, but avoid gaining it back? Researchers created the national weight control registry to answer this very question, and the data they collected is quite enlightening. The registry tracked the habits of over 6,000 participants who lost a minimum of 30 pounds and kept it off for the 12-month period that followed. Here are some of their key findings:
Controlling Food Intake
The successful participants continued to follow a calorie-controlled diet even after they had reached their goals. They controlled their portion sizes, and implemented many of strategies they employed to lose weight in their efforts to maintain it. Conscious eating is necessary for weight loss, but it is also necessary for weight maintenance.
The participants also followed a structured pattern of eating throughout the week. Establishing a routine allows your body to adapt to a new way of eating with minimal discomfort. Cravings are reduced, and you always know when and what your next meal will be, so dealing with hunger is not as difficult. These folks also splurged every once in a while and enjoyed foods they did not usually eat. However, these meals were planned in advance and limited to once every week or so.
Successful weight loss maintainers also ate smaller meals four to five times per day to stave off hunger and keep their blood sugar from spiking and crashing. They drank a minimum of five to six glasses of water per day as well, as thirst is often mistaken for hunger, and staying hydrated helps keep the appetite under control.
Most of those who were tracked reported eating breakfast every day shortly after rising in the morning. This is crucial for keeping energy levels stable throughout the day, as you start off the day with the nutrients and calories you need to get going. Including protein in your breakfast is also important, as it slows gastric emptying and prevents the mid-morning crash that is associated with starchy or sugary breakfasts.
The successful participants also exercised every day. Many people pat themselves on the back for working out twice per week, but the truth is, 60 minutes of exercise is recommended per day. It does not have to be strenuous, even a brisk walk around the neighborhood will suffice. The point is to get up and get moving, and to do it every day.
The most successful “losers” also made it a habit to weigh themselves on a regular basis. Weight gain has a way of creeping up on us slowly, so if you are not keeping an eye on your weight, you may put on 10 or more pounds before you notice your clothes getting tighter. Weighing on a regular basis prevents you from getting caught by surprise when your favorite jeans suddenly do not fit anymore.