You’ve probably heard that most weight-loss diets fail.
It’s the sort of “conventional wisdom” that can upend your good intentions.
Less often discussed are the success stories.
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is an ongoing research study that tracks diet winners who have lost at least 30 pounds, kept the weight off for at least one year and are willing to share their strategies.
In a new observational study registry participants were followed for 10 years to see how well they kept their weight off and to find strategies for weight-loss maintenance.
Here are some of the behaviors participants who best kept weight off have in common.
• Limiting food variety.
Successful participants aren’t filling their kitchens with every new food item that comes along.
Instead they eat “the same safe foods over and over,” says J. Graham Thomas, Ph.D., lead author of the study and researcher at The Miriam Hospital.
With less variety, people are more aware of what and how much they’re eating.
• Being consistent.
“They typically don’t go off pattern and splurge on high-fat food on holidays or weekends,” Thomas says.
However, this doesn’t mean avoiding fun foods. A weekly treat could fit into a participant’s consistent eating pattern.
“Most [registry participants] are weighing themselves regularly. They’re also calorie counting,” Thomas says.
Although it may never become a pleasure, after about two years people report that maintaining healthful habits feels “less effortful. It’s a more natural part of their lifestyle,” he says.
For those looking to go on an extremely low-calorie diet, experts say you’ll get fast results.
The quick pay-off can be motivating, according to Elisabetta Politi, registered dietitian nutritionist, director Duke Diet and Fitness Center, Durham, NC.
Unfortunately, that regimen is hard to keep up, experts say.
The alternative of taking small steps is a better long-term approach, but you don’t get immediate gratification.
It’s a dilemma, Politi says.
Electronic devices that track calories or physical activity can give you positive reinforcement without the extreme measures.
Although you won’t drop a pound by walking 1,000 steps, “you will get a reward daily through the number on your [step] counter,” says Sonya Angelone, registered dietitian nutritionist, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson.
“If you’re getting immediate feedback, you’re more likely to take action,” says Angelone, San Francisco Bay area.
You don’t need an expensive gadget for motivation, however.
Write down what you eat and how much exercise you get in a journal.
By reading your entries you can find positive reinforcement, according to Sarah L. Francis, nutrition specialist at Iowa State University, Ames.
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