Would you be interested if I told you that there are over 10,000 people who have lost more than 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year? Would you want to learn their weight loss secrets?
This is a group of extremely successful weight loss achievers. They are world class losers, if you may. Created by Rena Wing Ph.D. from Brown Medical School and James Hill. Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is the largest database of successful weight loss achievers in the world. This one group gives hope that weight loss can be achieved AND maintained.
Members of the NWCR have lost an average of 73 pounds and have kept the weight off for more than 5 years. As a group they have managed to reduce their Body Mass Index (BMI) from 37 to 25. About one-half of the participants used professional help such as a physician, a weight loss program or a nutritionist. The other half took the “Do-It-Yourself” approach. So, you can achieve and maintain weight loss either way you choose.
Studying those who have succeeded is a powerful way to learn. The NWCR researchers have surveyed and studied this group extensively to figure out the secrets to their success and have found several common habits among the successful losers. Lets get to it.
1. Use Diet + Exercise
The vast majority of participants used a combination of diet and exercise to lose weight. Only 1% used exercise alone as a way to lose weight and 10% used diet alone. This means that 89% of participants used BOTH diet and exercise. The lesson here is simple; you will need to create new eating habits and get regular exercise to have success.
2. Eat Breakfast Everyday
Grandma was right, as always. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The majority (78%) of the participants report eating breakfast every day and only 4% never eat breakfast. The most common reported breakfast type is cereal and fruit.
Without a hearty breakfast, your energy will be low and you will be susceptible to indulging and overeating later in the day (a crash and burn scenario). Because of the crash, your motivation (also known as self control) will be low and you may find yourself drinking Mountain Dew or snacking on Chunky Funky Popcorn at midday. Be careful and choose a solid breakfast. I try to avoid today’s sugar-laden boxed cereal brands and stick to fruit and oatmeal. Also, find a way to get veggies for breakfast (egg-white omelet filled with veggies anyone?).
3. Be Vigilant About Tracking Your Weight
Many of the participants (44%) weigh themselves at least once per day, but not all weigh themselves as frequently. Another 31% report weighing themselves at least once per week.
Weighing yourself allows for quick corrective action when the weight changes in the wrong direction. I understand that it can be quite the mental challenge to weigh yourself. A sense of dread bubbles up from inside by the thought of it. Its no different than being buried in a mountain of debt and avoiding a real look at your finances. It is easier to avoid it altogether and hope and pray. However, weighing yourself gives you a REALITY check. It allows you to assess your progress and see how the changes you are making are working (or not working).
Your weight may fluctuate by several pounds depending on several factors such as salt intake (those darn Salt and Vinegar potato chips) or dehydration from a hot day at the outdoor shopping mall. So, no worries over every little change and track progress over weeks and months. The time of day will also make a difference, so keep it consistent. I weigh myself early in the morning before I shower. The weight of my clothing (nothing) is consistent at that time. I recommend a digital scale, to avoid the needle ‘wagging’ at you while you guess your weight.
4. Avoid the Couch
These people are NOT couch potatoes. In fact, they have no time for TV. On average they watch less than 10 hours of TV per week. This is just over an hour per day. Ask yourself honestly, how do you compare? If you are like the average American you maybe getting up to 6 hours of TV time per day. How many Law and Order reruns can one take? That is a lot of “recliner rot” and lost productivity.
The registry participants are active burning about 2000-3000 calories per week with moderate physical activity, such as a brisk walk. This amounts to about one hour of exercise per day. Walking is by far the favorite activity amongst the participants (76%) followed by weight lifting (20%), cycling (20%) and aerobics (18%).
It should be reassuring that you do NOT need to be a triathlete, marathon runner or a body builder to lose weight. Nothing extreme, just get out for a walk everyday. Make it brisk. This is a widely available and inexpensive activity. If your excuse is the weather, just remember this from British Adventurer Sir Rannulph Fiennes:
There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
5. Eat a Low Calorie, Low Fat Diet
The vast majority of participants (98%) reported that they changed their food intake to lose weight. The participants frequently report using a low calorie, low fat diet.
It is important to recognize that this does not mean starving yourself. This behavior is self-destructive. Starvation signals the body to hold on to every last calorie and eventually will lead to weight regain. So, eat less calories by eating more . . . of fruits and vegetables. No one argues against increased consumption of the natural goodies. Filled with fiber, water and nutrients they are a natural, low calorie food. The fiber and fluid helps to fill you up and sends a message to your brain that you are satiated (fancy for “filled up”).
6. Keep Consistent Eating Habits
Most participants eat the same on the weekends and holidays as they do during the week. This speaks to the importance of regular healthy eating habits to keep us in line.
About 60% report that they eat the same on the weekends as they do during the week and about 45% eat the same on holidays and vacations as they would normally eat during a typical week.
Those that allowed more variation of their diet during holidays and vacations were also more likely to suffer weight regain. This suggests that exposure to holiday and vacation foods may cause some loss of control leading to bad eating habits and weight regain.
Be careful during these vulnerable times. If you find that your exposure to German Chocolate Cake over Christmas has creeped into your regular habits, then you will need to re-adjust.
Remember that weight loss is a slow, gradual process. There are no quick fixes. I hope you can use this information to make positive change in your life. Maybe it will inspire you to take action today or reassure you that you can “Do-It-Yourself” and do not need to train like an Olympian for weight loss. The simplest of behavioral changes, used consistently over time, leads to big-time weight loss.
Image Credit: Sacred Land by Chase Morgan from 500px.com