In the largest study ever of “losers”–folks who lost an average of 66 pounds and kept them off for at least five years–participants were asked how they achieved their success. “Few used extreme strategies, such as fad diets, drugs, or surgery,” noted Dr. Mary Lou Klem, director of the University of Pittsburgh National Weight Control Registry study. Nearly everyone reported using a conventional combination of exercising more and eating less. Accumulating evidence suggests that with this kind of effort, you can lose weight–and keep it off.
Hope for yo-yo dieters
It is a powerful–and self-defeating–myth that people whose weight bounces up and down are doomed to a lifetime of dieting misery and failure. Yet many of the people in the registry study who were successful with weight loss spent years losing and gaining before they finally found that success.
Take Becky Meyer–a mother of five who lost and kept off 40 pounds. She tried fad diets, high-protein diets, restrictive diets, diet pills, and every other gimmick. But she’d just lose weight and put it back on again. She finally quit trying what she calls “goofy” diets.
Becky’s first step was to break her “starve-all-day, eat-all-night” pattern. Instead, she ate three small meals a day with healthful snacks–such as yogurt, apples, and pretzels–in between. She also began a simple and regular exercise program. Sticking with her new habits–and, after four subsequent pregnancies–Becky sports a svelte 122 pounds on her 5-foot-5-inch frame.
Weight loss, despite genetic barriers
Even inherited weight problems can be licked. Seven out of 10 weight losers in the study were heavy as children and teenagers. In about as many cases, one or both biological parents were overweight. Susan Coughran, 51, recollects, “When I was ten my mother made me a crinoline dress, and I looked like a hippopotamus in it. By the time I was in college, I weighed 250 pounds.”
Susan lost weight by eating fewer fatty foods and more vegetables, fruits, fish, and chicken. She’s maintained her size 10 figure for more than 20 years now.
Diets just a beginning
The overriding message from registry participants: Find a way to lose weight that suits your own needs and preferences. One helpful strategy is to reexamine your past weight-loss attempts and identify what did and did not work for you.
For instance, if it helped to pack your lunch the night before work, then starts doing it again. Or, try setting your alarm back 45 minutes and rouse yourself for an early morning walk before heading to the office. Perhaps mornings aren’t a convenient time for you to exercise? Then try another approach American weight loss program Fat Diminisher Review.
No pain–and no weight gain
The idea that keeping weight off is harder than losing it in the first place is a myth. Two-thirds of people in the registry survey found weight maintenance was either “easy” or “moderately easy.”
Nine out of 10 successful weight losers in a different survey found that once they were in the maintenance stage they “didn’t feel like they were dieting,” and the overwhelming majority said they enjoy food. Hazel Underwood (who lost 40 pounds) declares, “I no longer think of myself as `dieting.’ My eating habits have changed for life.”
Hazel advises, “Rather than focus on being deprived, think of the rich reward of weight loss,” even after you’ve lost the weight and are holding steady.
Most of the successful losers interviewed don’t fit society’s–or a fashion model’s–definition of thin. That’s OK: Too often would-be weight losers establish goals that are too severe, automatically setting themselves up for failure and disappointment because they either can’t reach the goal or find it hard to maintain if achieved. Successful losers set a goal for a weight that’s both realistic and maintainable.
One technique that can help you focus on progress when you hit a weight plateau is to keep a daily record of successes, such as walking for 20 minutes on your lunch hour or having fruit instead of pastry for a snack. If your weight isn’t yet where you want it to be, remind yourself of how far you’ve come–you may be down a size or two, sleeping better, or have more energy.
A comfortable body weight is one that you can maintain without starving and thinking about food all the time, and at which you have no weight-related medical problems and can say, “I feel pretty good.”
Cindy Poole, who 15 years ago weighed 235 pounds, says, “When I got down to 140 pounds, I felt like I was in a cage and had to count the calories of everything I ate.” At 5 feet 8 inches tall, Cindy has settled in at a personally “comfortable” weight of 150 pounds.
Keeping exercise simple
Burning an average of 400 calories a day through exercise–as the registry study losers did–sounds like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of walking briskly for about an hour to an hour and a quarter. In fact, your chosen activity needn’t be back-breaking or fancy. Successful losers rank walking as the most popular form of exercise. Biking and aerobics are also popular.
Dorothy Crenshaw, who lost 25 pounds, advises, “Regular exercise not only bums calories, it reduces the stress that triggers overeating. It’s helped me feel better physically and feel good about myself.”
The best news is that permanent weight control is within reach, whether you want to lose 10 pounds or 100. When we learn from losers, their loss becomes our gain.