The diet industry tends to focus on strategies needed to shed pounds, paying less attention to what’s needed to keep weight from creeping back up. Now, a large study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found that dieting and long-term weight control require some different tactics. In particular, successful weight-loss maintainers are more likely to:
- Eat lots of low-fat sources of protein.
- Follow a consistent exercise routine.
- Reward themselves for sticking to their diet or exercise plan.
- Remind themselves why they need to control their weight.
That’s in addition to practices common in both successful dieting and weight-loss maintenance, such as eating lots of fruits and vegetables, controlling portions, planning what you’ll buy before going to the store and reading nutrition labels.
Previous research by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which tracks people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year, has identified other long-term strategies. Successful weight-loss maintainers tend to have a consistent eating pattern (they don’t eat more on weekends or vacations), eat a less-varied diet (greater food variety may tempt you to eat more) and watch less TV. They also tend to be conscious of calories, eat breakfast, weigh themselves regularly, keep food diaries and exercise a lot.
Why the need for some new strategies to keep the pounds off? Weight control is a process in which you fine-tune what works for you as you go. You may find, for example, that limiting calories works initially, but that later on you feel better and can keep your calories down by eating more lean protein. And you may be highly motivated to lose weight initially, but over time, as motivation wanes, find that you need to remind yourself of your goals more often.
Don’t get discouraged: According to the NWCR, most people fail several times before they get it right. Keep in mind, too, that if you can keep the weight off for two years, chances are it will stay off.