Successful maintainers eat a low-fat, “good” carbohydrate diet. The low-carb craze has not influenced them. On average, they get most of their calories (55 to 60 percent) from carbohydrates and 24 percent of their calories from fat; the rest is from protein. (Participants who consume lower-carb diets have regained the most weight, possibly because they replace carbs with fats.) Successful maintainers emphasize “good” carbs—fruits, vegetables and other high-fiber foods—not high-sugar carbohydrates.
Successful maintainers know that total calories count, no matter what diet they choose to follow. Whether the calories come from carbs, fat or protein, a calorie is a calorie—and calorie intake remained roughly the same (estimated at about 1,800 per day) for maintainers who were studied between 1995 and 2003.
In line with current guidelines, successful maintainers carve out time every day for planned exercise, but they also look for ways to get more activity during the rest of the day. They engage in lots of physical activity—60 to 90 minutes daily. Walking is their number one activity.
Most people who become successful maintainers have failed several times before. Hardly anyone “gets it right” the first time around. It may take a few rounds before you succeed—so don’t give up. Remember, successful maintainers live in the real world. While they tend to eat most meals at home, they do eat out nearly three times a week, on average, and even visit fast-food restaurants about once a week. No surprise: Ninety percent of the participants report that life is better after weight loss. They report better energy, mood and confidence. So it gets easier. If you can keep the weight off for two years, chances are you’ll keep it off long term.