If you look at the process of weight loss, it seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Eat less, exercise more, and watch the pounds melt away. It’s such a simple concept. In fact, if you believe the hype put out there by some diet books, magazines, and infomercials, it may seem like fast weight loss is just one diet or gadget away, if you could only find the right one. In that respect, some of those infomercials and books are right—fast weight loss can be just around the corner. But losing weight fast doesn’t always mean it will be permanent. For long-term weight loss, the usual diets or programs seem to fall short. So, are you ready to find out the secrets to successful weight loss?
Before you panic about that much exercise, give yourself permission to take that time and experiment with different activities, schedules and frequencies will allow you to find what will work for you in the long-term, not just a few days or weeks. It’s also helpful to find something that you enjoy. Experiment with different activities. If you don’t enjoy it, you may do it for a day or two and then give up. You need something fun and a little challenging in order to stay motivated. A basic exercise routine should include cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises to help you burn calories, build muscle, and keep your connective tissue flexible. If you get confused about where to start, just remember: Doing something is always better than nothing so, when all else fails, go for a walk.
It should also come as no surprise that the next part of successful weight loss involves diet. The majority of National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) members reported eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet, with women eating an average of 1,306 calories a day (24.3 percent from fat) and the men eating about 1,685 calories a day (23.5 percent from fat). What’s interesting is that about half of the members used some kind of program while the other half did it on their own. Regardless of which path they followed, the members ended up following the same type of diet. In addition, about 80 percent of members reported eating breakfast each day,6 which science has already shown leads to a lower BMI than people who skip breakfast. For many of us, diets don’t work very well and some people find that making small changes to how they eat each day leads to more success, even if the weight loss is slower.
Another behavior of NWCR weight losers is weighing themselves on a regular basis. About 44 percent of members reported weighing themselves every day while 31 percent weigh themselves at least once a week. The idea here is not the scale itself, but the vigilance successful losers maintain even after they’ve lost the weight. This is a key point that differs from many diet programs currently out there. Many diets require you to follow different phases with different levels of calories. Often there’s an induction phase or a time when you restrict foods (or even entire food groups) and drastically lower calories. After that, dieters then begin to add foods and calories back into the diet. Finally, dieters get to a “maintenance phase” where they eat more calories than they did at the beginning of the diet. But, what the NWCR tells us is that these weight losers continue to follow the same diet both during the weight loss process as well as after they’ve lost the weight. The bottom line is that there really is no difference in behaviors from beginning a weight loss and maintaining weight loss except perhaps readjusting exercise and calories as you lose weight to keep the weight in check. Be aware of functional milestones. You may start to notice changes to daily practices due to a change in your body size. For example, you may no longer need a seat belt extender. Perhaps you are able to cross your legs more comfortably. These are important changes that deserve recognition. Keep a food journal: Knowing you have to write down what you’re eating makes you think twice about your choices.
Keep an exercise journal: Looking back to see how many workouts you’ve done can be a great motivator and it can also help you decide when it’s time to change your program. Notice clothing changes. You may notice that your clothing fits better or is becoming looser in certain areas as you lose weight.
It’s common for many of us to eat healthily during the week only to blow it on the weekends. But, NWCR members were able to maintain their weight loss by eating healthy all the time. Fifty-nine percent of members reported eating the same on weekends and holidays while 39% reported followed stricter diets during the week as compared to the weekend. Being consistent doesn’t mean you have to robotically follow the same diet day after day. Below are a few ideas for ways you can stay healthy and still have some fun: Work treats into your diet. Some people find that having a small indulgence each day, like a piece of chocolate or a handful of chips, keeps them satisfied and allows them to choose healthy options for the rest of the time. Have a plan of attack. The single most important thing you do when eating healthy is being prepared. That means having healthy foods around so you’re not tempted to run out for fast food, planning for how you’ll deal with the buffet table at a party and realizing that, sometimes, you’re going to overindulge. Keep things balanced. Watching your calories and eating healthy is important, but so is enjoying life and not obsessing about everything we eat. We all have to find the right balance. Sometimes, being too restrictive can lead to binging on the very things we’re trying to avoid. Don’t give up. There will come a day when you eat too much cake or have the one extra piece of pizza you shouldn’t have. We all overindulge at times but many of us use that as an excuse to quit and go back to old, unhealthy behaviors. One mistake isn’t the end of the world and, even if you’ve really fallen off the wagon, you can always get right back on track by simply making the decision to not give up.