Seven no-nonsense strategies for successful weight loss

Weight loss – it’s a constant battle for many and even when a person does lose some weight, the other struggle is keeping the weight off.  How do some people successfully lose significant amounts of weight and maintain the loss while others lose and then regain weight in repeating cycles?

To find out the answer to this perplexing question, a good start is to check out what the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) has discovered.  The NWCR is a research study that includes over 4,000 people (18 years or older) who have lost at least 30 pounds of weight and kept it off for at least one year.  The participants in the NWCR are about 80% women and 20% men, with most ranging in age from 44 to 49 and the majority are Caucasian.  Weight loss ranges have been from 30 to 300 pounds with an average of 66 pounds lost.  The average length of time to maintain the weight loss is 5.5 years. 

The majority of participants in the NWCR are people who gained weight early in life with almost half of them being overweight by the time they were age 11.  Almost one half had one parent who was overweight and 27% reported that both parents were overweight, which indicates that for many of the individuals there may have been a genetic susceptibility to obesity. 

So what was it that these individuals did to not only lose at least 30 pounds but to keep the weight off long-term?  This is where findings from the NWCR have found seven consistent factors that have lead each participant down the path toward weight loss success.   By incorporating these seven secrets of weight loss success, anyone else who is trying to lose some excess pounds, can be successful too. 

Here is what the participants in the NWCR consistently did to keep the weight loss from returning:

1. They avoid trigger foods

We all have foods that we find irresistible.  It could be pizza, ice cream, chips, cookies, anything that can pushes a person’s start button into binge mode.  Recognizing and avoiding trigger foods was shown to be a great place to start in the process of weight loss.  When trigger foods are kept “out of sight” they also become “out of mind.”  This makes it so much easier to stick to a diet plan and staying in control of your eating. 

2. They practice consistency

The kind of consistency the participants followed was to have a consistent food intake from day to day and to eat about four to five times per day.  Consistency can help with weight loss and maintenance because then food decisions take on a routine nature.  Consistent food choices may also encourage self-control, minimize unplanned food temptations, foster self-discipline, and can increase a person’s ability to persevere by following a healthy diet.  Research has shown that individuals who have a consistent daily meal pattern tend to be leaner than those with an inconsistent, random, or chaotic eating pattern. 

3. They consistently eat breakfast

Breakfast is so important for reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight.  What is it about breakfast that makes it a major determinant in weight loss success?  Here are some reasons:

· Breakfast suppresses midmorning hunger

· Breakfast produces better blood glucose control and raises a person’s metabolism

· Breakfast reduces episodes of impulsive or excessive eating later in the day

· Breakfast increases fiber intake – mainly from eating whole grain cereals and fruits.

· Breakfast encourages improved health awareness


4. They are very physically active

Physical activity is one of the most important elements of successful weight management.  It improves body composition (reduces fat tissue while building muscle mass), increases metabolic rate and improves an individual’s mental outlook. 

The average person in the NWCR database exercises for about 60 to 90 minutes each day at a moderate intensity.  If they choose to walk, they take about 11,000 to 12,000 steps per day, which is about the equivalent of almost 6 miles.

5. They weigh themselves frequently

Frequent weighing appears to be an integral part of successful weight loss maintenance.  The dieters in the NWCR weighed themselves at least once a week if not daily.  The act of stepping on a scale regularly is a form of accountability and self-monitoring.  Consistent self-monitoring is associated with improved weight loss.  Plus if a person notices their weight climbing they can “catch” themselves and react positively by making changes to reduce their weight right away before weight regain gets out of control.

6. They limit their television viewing

The national average time for adults of watching television is 28 hours per week or four hours per day.  That is a tremendous amount of time spent engaged in a sedentary activity.  Successful weight loss over an extended period of time must include minimal amounts of time spent watching television and this is where the participants in the NWCR confirm this.  About 62% of them report watching 10 or fewer hours of television per week and more than one third watched less than five hours each week.  Find better things to do than spend enormous amounts of time that could be spent more productively.

7. They take corrective action when weight is regained

The successful dieters in the NWCR do not allow even a small amount of weight gain to occur without taking some sort of means of correcting their action.  They will respond right away to small weight gains by either reducing their food intake and or increasing their exercise level.  This goes along with frequent weighing to know when they are beginning to gain extra weight.

Take home message

To be successful at weight loss and then weight maintenance, it requires a sustained and lifelong commitment to healthful food selection, regular physical activity, and diligently monitoring weight.  These behaviors necessitate self-control and self-discipline.  It can be difficult to follow these practices but they are necessary to make weight loss happen.  Even small weight loss amounts can result in health improvements which is always a commendable goal that is worth the effort required to accomplish it.