As many people have found out, losing weight and keeping it off for good is not as easy as it sounds. Yet, it is not impossible, as the subjects of the largest on-going study on people who have lost weight and kept it off have proven.
The 2,000 participants in the National Weight Control Registry have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept if off for an average of six years.
Rena Wing, professor of psychology and epidemiology of the Obesity Nutrition Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh and James Hill of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center organized the study because they wanted to debunk the myth that nobody ever succeeds at weight loss. They knew there were people who were successful weight-losers and they wanted to find out how they did it.
Although 80 percent of the people studied were women, the researchers feel everyone who wishes to achieve a normal weight can learn from their "secrets".
It's not all in your genes.
Research suggests that if you have been overweight as a child and have at least one overweight parent, you'll have a much harder time losing weight as an adult. The majority of the participants in the registry fit this description. They are proof that, yes, there are genetic factors involved in obesity, but it doesn't mean that you cannot be successful at weight loss. According to Wing, in an interview with Bonnie Liebman of Nutrition Action Health Letter, people shouldn't look at their parents and say: "I'm destined to be overweight and there's nothing I can do about it."
If you fail, try and try again.
No matter how unsuccessful you have been in your past attempts to lose weight, don't give up trying. Most of the participants had failed several times before successfully losing weight.
Change both eating and exercise habits.
Almost all the participants said that to lose or maintain their weight, they changed both their eating and exercise habits. In other words, they didn't just diet without exercising or vice-versa.
The most common strategy in changing eating habits was to eat less of a certain type of food. Presumably, these foods were those that have very high calories like desserts.
The second most common strategy was to eat all kinds of food, but limit the quantity. The majority reported that they watched their fat intake.
Very few of the participants used crash or fad diets. This confirms the results of other reliable studies that indicate that crash/fad diets have a very poor success rate. Another interesting point is that only four percent of the participants used weight-loss medication. The research of Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the father of aerobics, has shown that it is very difficult to manage your weight without exercise. The participants agree. On the average, they burn 2,800 calories a week. This is equivalent to walking 45 kilometers a week, or about five to six kilometers a day. Walking is not the only form of exercise they engage in. Other participants burn their weekly calories by running, bicycling, aerobics, weight lifting, or stair climbing.
Keep in mind, however, that the participants' average weight dropped from 220 to 154 pounds. The heavier you are, the more calories you burn when you exercise. 2,800 calories a week is not a literal goal for everyone. The less you weigh, the fewer calories you need to burn to lose or maintain your weight. Most weight loss experts recommend burning 1,000 calories a week through exercise.
Other weight loss secrets.
Maura Rhodes, in a January 1998 Good Housekeeping magazine issue, interviewed participants in the registry to ask them their favorite tips.
Why other people fail in losing weight.
According to Wing, so many people fail to lose weight or maintain their weight loss because "we live in a society where there is so much emphasis on eating and inactivity. From remote controls to gas-powered leaf blowers, a growing number of things keep us inactive. We're spending more time in front of televisions and computer terminals. And restaurants are serving larger and larger portions. There's food everywhere." This observation is true not only for the U.S., but also for Asia, the Philippines included, where obesity levels keep climbing.
The participants of this important study have proven that weight loss success is possible if you, as Oregon physician William Brust says to his overweight patients, "eat as if you don't exercise and exercise as if you eat a lot."
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