10 Secrets of Successful Weight Loss
Are you sick of setting your New Year’s resolution to lose weight every time January 1st rolls around?
Do you start the year with good intentions, enthusiasm and the latest diet (there are plenty on offer!) but after the initial few kilos come off, motivation seems to wane, life gets busy and you find yourself back to your old habits, and your old weight, or even a few kilograms more?
If you want to break the dieting cycle, then forget the fads and work on building the habits that we know help not only with losing weight but also keeping it off for good.
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) in the USA began in 1994, aimed at identifying and investigating the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss.
In the largest study of its kind, researchers are tracking more than 10,000 Americans who have lost significant amounts of weight (ranging from 13 to 136kgs) and kept it off for at least a year. The average registry participant has lost 30kgs and kept it off for 5.5 years. One participant has maintained their weight loss for 66 years!
The participants in the NWCR are asked to complete questionnaires and annual follow-up surveys to examine the behavioral and psychological traits which have helped them to lose and maintain their weight loss. Almost 40 research papers have now been published, describing the findings from this study.
According to the NWCR researchers, here are the habits that count:
Habit 1: Forget fads. It seems there’s a new diet out every week promising miraculous results but anyone who has tried these would know that, at least in the long term, they are not the answer. The majority of clients we see at NND who are seeking help to lose weight have tried many ‘diets’ and have usually lost weight but have been unable to keep this weight off. Unfortunately there are no secrets to long-term weight loss. Those who lose weight and keep it off do so by eating less and moving more.
Habit 2: Get help. Losing weight isn’t easy so having support, both from professionals and from friends and family, is important. In the NWCR less than half lost weight on their own – the others got help from commercial programs, a doctor or a dietitian.
Habit 3: Move more. Exercise not only burns kilojoules but also helps to build muscle, which in turn increases your metabolism. It also has plenty of other health benefits. In the NCWR successful losers reported an average of 60 minutes or more of activity at a brisk walking pace each day.
Habit 4: Combine diet and exercise. To lose weight you need to use up more energy than you take in each day. It is much easier to do this by working on both sides of the equation rather than using diet or exercise alone. The alternative is likely to be a very restrictive diet or hours of exercise each day. Amongst NWCR participants, 98% modified their eating habits and 94% increased their activity levels.
Habit 5: Reduce fat and energy. Most successful NWCR participants ate a relatively low-fat, reduced-energy diet. The women were consuming around 5500 kilojoules and men around 7000 kilojoules, with about 25% of their energy from fat. While a low fat diet isn’t the only way to lose weight, gram-for-gram, fat provides more than double the energy of carbs and protein, so it is easier to add up the kilojoules quickly with high fat foods.
Habit 6: Be consistent. Most NCWR participants had a consistent eating pattern across the week and over the year, meaning that they didn’t let weekends and holidays get them off track. This doesn’t mean you can’t fit in treats and indulge a little on special occasions, but dieting strictly during the week and letting it all go on the weekends or holidays is unlikely to lead to success.
Habit 7: Track your progress. The majority (93%) of NWCR participants reported tracking their weight, diet or exercise. This included the use of calorie counter and weight monitoring apps. The researchers also found that those who checked their weight more often were less likely to regain weight. This doesn’t mean being obsessive, but an increase in the numbers is a signal to get back on track well before you clothes start feeling tight.
Habit 8: Don’t skip breakfast. You might think skipping a meal will help you to lose weight but several studies have now shown that breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight than those who skip this meal. In the NWCR, 78% of successful losers reported eating breakfast daily and only 4% reported never eating breakfast.
Habit 9: Limit screen time. There’s increasing evidence of the problems of sedentary behaviours, particularly television watching, when it comes to our health and our weight. Around two-thirds of NCWR participants watched less than 10 hours of television per week and more than one-third watched less than 5 hours per week. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that television watching is the most prevalent sedentary activity among Australian adults, averaging 13 hours per week,
Habit 10: Set a limit for regain. The NWCR participants tended to be better at dealing with regains. Successful losers still had lapses but seemed to be more vigilant than others at identifying them and making adjustments to get themselves back on track. In those who did relapse, the ones who gained less weight were more likely to recover from their relapse and re-lose this weight.
Remember, successful long term weight loss isn’t about going on a diet, losing your weight, and going back to your old habits. The only way to lose weight permanently is to build new eating and exercise habits you can stick to in the long term.
The good news? According to the findings from the NWCR, it seems the longer you’ve kept your weight off, the easier it gets and less effort is needed to maintain your new weight.