Studies show again and again that most people who are able to lose weight with lifestyle changes regain the weight. As blogged many times previously, this is our natural biology at work, adjusting our hunger/fullness hormones and reducing our metabolism to vigorously defend body weight and promote weight regain. That being said, a small percentage of people are able to fight this biology and keep lost weight off.
So: What are the habits of people who have lost weight and managed to keep it off?
A review summarizes the available evidence on this topic. While the US National Weight Control Registry is still far and away the biggest database with over 10,000 patients, there are now databases also in Portugal, Germany, Finland, and Greece (with several hundred patients each), with studies from these databases included in this analysis.
For successful weight loss, habits reported by at least 80% of participants included:
- Having healthy foods available at home
- Eating breakfast regularly
- Being physically active
- Eating more veggies
- Eating less sugary and fatty foods
- Limiting certain foods
- Reducing fat in meals
For weight loss maintenance (prevention of weight regain), habits reported were very similar to habits used to lose weight. Notably:
- Increased physical activity was the single most important habit associated with keeping weight off – and the more minutes of activity per week, the great the amount of weight loss maintained.
- The greater the calorie intake and the greater the fat intake, the lower (less successful) the amount of weight loss maintained.
- Few people in this data base reported taking weight loss supplements, and in fact, one of the studies showed that people who did take weight loss supplements were less likely to have success.
We should take registry studies with a grain of salt, in that this is volunteer reporting. Volunteers sharing their tips may have different strategies than those who don’t choose to contribute. People may also under- or over-report what they do (unintentionally or intentionally). That being said, these are people who have managed their weight successfully and are happy to share how they did it – well worth consideration.
PS – pair this blog with personal words of wisdom from members of WW International (formerly Weight Watchers) who have successfully maintained weight loss.
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