Practical Tips from Successful “Losers”

“Maintaining weight loss is difficult because it is hard to make permanent changes in behavior. It’s easy to eat less and exercise more for a few days or a few weeks, but the key is making permanent changes”. Words of wisdom from Dr. James Hill, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), an eight-year-old on-going study on how its 3,000 plus members have lost weight and kept it off. These successful “losers” have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for six years. As inspiring as their success is, it’s even more inspiring when you find out that most of them had been overweight since they were teenagers, that they came from families with a history of obesity, and that their average age is 45 years.

They used many different methods to lose weight but four similar techniques to maintain their weight: Eating breakfast, eating a low fat, high carbohydrate diet (24% fat, 56% carbohydrates, 19% protein), self-monitoring, and exercising one hour everyday.

They have been interviewed by many TV shows, magazines, and newspapers about what they do to maintain their weight. Here are some of the practical tips they have shared.

Like many other things in life, success begins with the right attitude. The NWCR participants report that they didn’t just change the way they eat and exercise but they also changed the way they think about weight loss. They realize that they can never go back to their old couch potato/junk food lifestyle so they developed diet and exercise strategies that they can live with.

They accept that they may never reach their desired weight (many started with unrealistic goals like wanting to be as slim as a model) but they instead focus on maintaining the weight that they have already lost.

They believe that they have the power to change their destiny and have stopped blaming their fat genes. They accept that they have to make more of an extra effort to maintain their weight compared to other people. They recognize that they are different from other people so they only do what works for them.

They are not perfect but when they have lapses, they recover quickly. They don’t wait for Monday, or the first of the month, or the end of their vacation to start making corrections.

They know that the weight will come back if they are not vigilant so they are constantly monitoring their weight. Some weigh themselves everyday, others once a week. Others use their clothes or a tape measure to keep track of their size. Others write down everything they eat in a food diary. Many report using some type of a logbook to write down their weight, food, measurements, and progress in exercise (how many miles they walked, how many minutes they exercised, etc.).

Some participants felt that if you deny yourself your favorite goodies, you will eventually binge and eat uncontrollably. Their strategies to stay in control include having week-end rewards, allowing yourself one goody per day, and balancing high calorie/high fat food by eating less the next meal or the next day.

Other participants reported that if they had just one bite of a temptation, they would lose all control. These people removed all junk food and other high calorie items from their homes. If they really wanted something, they would have to go out to buy it, then eat it in public where it is much harder to binge. They also used the strategy of lower calorie substitutions, for example, an ice sherbet instead of an extra-rich scoop of ice cream.

Dine out, but eat light. Sharing an order with a friend, using a ‘’doggy-bag’’, not ordering appetizers or dessert, eating low calorie meals during the day in anticipation of a dinner at night, are some of the strategies used by the participants. They also reported becoming educated about the calorie content of fast- food meals so they could make better choices.

The participants reported experimenting with their favorite recipes to lower the calories. They did this by substituting high calorie ingredients for lower calorie ones and trimming the fat and oil. This is more realistic than eating bland ‘’diet’’ food that you dislike.

The majority reported eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to fill them up. Also, they switched from low fiber products made with refined white flour to high fiber products like whole wheat bread and pasta.

They drank a lot of water. Many reported watching out for “wet” calories from packaged ice teas, sports drinks, soft drinks, processed sugary “fruit” drinks, smoothies, and specialty coffee drinks with cream and syrup. They were also aware that even natural fruit juices cannot be abused and drank the whole day.

Not only did they eat breakfast but they also did not skip meals. They planned what kind of snacks they would have so they wouldn’t just eat anything that was around.

Although they exercise an average of one hour a day, many reported doing it by breaking down the one hour into ten or fifteen minute sessions throughout the day.

They try to get more exercise out of the day by making efforts to move more like parking far away, personally delivering a message to a co-worker in another department rather than just emailing them, walking around while talking on the telephone, taking a ten minute walk before and after lunch, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

To keep track of how much physical activity they are getting, some use pedometers or digimeters. These are small devices attached to your waistband that count how many steps you take or how many miles/kilometres you have walked for the day. They are available in local sporting good stores. The well-made ones are P800 and up.

Studies have found that people who are overweight take about 5,000 steps a day or less while people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off take 10,000 to 12,000 steps a day or walk about four to five miles a day.

If you want to find out how active you really are, a pedometer is a cheap way to find out. As one participant said, “People swear they walk about 10 miles a day, saying they’re active, on their feet all day. They ‘feel’ like they’re burning calories but really they’re standing around, not moving”.

I bought one for myself recently and discovered that an average 45-minute aerobic class (step, latin, kickboxing, low impact) is equivalent to about 5,000 steps.

If you don’t have time for ‘structured’ exercise, a pedometer is a good way to make sure that you get the required number of steps a day. If you find out at lunchtime that you have only taken 3,000 steps so far, you can then make an effort to be more active in the afternoon and early evening to catch up.

Note” The Association of Fitness Professionals of the Philippines (AFPP) announces that the August 24 Fitness Seminar has been postponed to September 21. The Life Fitness Academy has also been postponed but there is no definite date yet.

Watch "In Fitness & In Health" on Studio 23 (Channel 42 on Destiny Cable) 6-6:30 a.m. Monday to Friday.

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