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Successful losers

Posted by Richard on January 23, 2007

This time of year, many of us are trying to lose a few pounds. It’s become a cliché that losing weight is relatively easy, but keeping it off is hard. So, what are the secrets of the really successful losers — the people who’ve lost a lot and avoided gaining back the weight they’ve lost? The National Weight Control Registry is a good place to find out.  It’s tracking over 5,000 people who’ve lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year, making it "the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance."

James O. Hill, NWCR’s co-founder and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, described the typical person in the registry as a middle-aged white woman who’s lost an average of 70 pounds and kept it off an average of seven years. Those numbers are a pretty good indication that the registry members are doing something right.

So what made the registry members successful? According to Hill, these five behaviors (emphasis added):

1. They eat breakfast. Unlike fat people, who typically skip breakfast but do have lunch and then eat virtually non-stop from about 4 p.m. until they go to bed,"these people almost never skip breakfast," Hill reports. "We think maybe that calories ingested in the morning have a greater satiating effect than calories eaten later in the day."

2. They monitor their weight. "These people use scales a lot," Hill says. "Almost all of them use a scale weekly, and some use it daily." Such regular checks enable them to catch weight regain early on, he says, so they can take action to get back on track as soon as they see their target number go up more than two or three pounds.

3. They get a lot of exercise. "Walking is huge," Hill reports. A survey of participants in the registry found that on average, they get 60 minutes of physical activity per day, with 28 percent mostly walking,49 percent combining walking with cycling, aerobics or lifestyle changes such as parking farther away, and 14 percent mainly doing activities other than walking. Meanwhile, 9 percent "do nothing" — i.e. they control their weight through diet alone.

4. They watch what they eat. Most successful losers report consuming 1300 to 1400 calories per day over the long term, with only about 25 percent of the total derived from fat, compared to 30 percent or more in the typical American diet. In addition, their eating habits are consistent from day to day — they don’t take "holidays" when anything goes.

5. They stay away from the tube. The formerly fat "watch much less TV than the national average" — about 10 hours a week, or less than half of the typical 28 hours or so. Presumably, they’re less likely to be snacking and more likely to be physically active during the non-watching hours.

Hmm. I guess I’m doing fine on #1 and #2, need to work harder on #3 (especially in the winter), and need to be more consistent about #4.

But, oh boy, do I fail badly on #5! Sigh. Anybody want to buy a nice Samsung 46" HDTV?

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