Keeping it off can be as hard as losing it

Successful dieters adopt new habits

- By Nanci Hellmich USA TODAY

Losing extra pounds is half the battle, but keeping it off is the other half. Many people who maintain weight loss for years use various strategies: They often follow a low-calorie, low-fat diet of about 1,800 calories a day, keep track of food intake and walk about an hour a day or burn the same calories doing other physical activities. Those findings come from successful dieters in the National Weight Control Registry, a group of 10,000 people (about three-quarters are women) who have lost 30 pounds or more and maintained that loss for a year or more.

A survey of 3,000 of the participan­ts showed that they weighed an average of 224 pounds before their weight loss, dropped an average of 69 pounds and had maintained an average of a 51pound loss at 10 years.

“These people are very successful at something that requires a lot of effort,” says Graham Thomas, co-investigat­or of the registry and an assistant professor at Brown University in Providence. “They built healthy habits and routines and made them a part of their everyday lifestyle. That makes it feel like less effort than it did at first.”

Many were motivated by health concerns such as high blood pressure, pre-diabetes or high cholestero­l, Thomas says.

A study of registry members’ brains shows they “work harder to control their eating when tasty food is around than people who have always been at a normal weight,” he says.

Bonnie Taub-dix, a registered dietitian in New York City and blogger at, says her patients who successful­ly maintain weight loss “realize that being slimmer has value: they value the way they look and feel and they value their health.”

To maintain their weight loss, registry members usually:

-Co-nt calories, carbs or fat grams or use a commercial weightloss program to track food intake.

-Eat breakfast regularly, often including whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

-Limit dining out to an average of three times a week, and fast food to less than once a week.

-Eat similar foods often and don’t splurge much.

-Watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week.

-Weigh at least once a week.

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