Have you ever worked hard to lose weight only to see it creep back after a few weeks or months? You’re not alone. In fact, about 80 percent of overweight people who slim down will eventually have that very same experience, according to research from Brown University. These winning strategies—lessons learned from people who have taken off at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a year or more, as tracked by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR)—may be just what you need to help keep weight off over the long run:
Research shows that people who eat a regular morning meal tend to consume fewer calories and eat a healthier diet overall than people who do not. Those who skip breakfast usually end up eating extra snacks or opting for oversize meals later on to compensate.
While taking time to sit and eat is best, grabbing an apple with peanut butter on the way out the door, eating half a turkey sandwich on the bus or a yogurt at your desk can start your day on the right foot.
Step on the Scale
Hitting your goal weight doesn’t mean it’s time to say so long to your scale. In fact, three quarters of people in the Registry check their weight at least once per week. Just remember to get on the scale at roughly the same time and under the same conditions to account for normal weight fluctuations that occur throughout the day.
Odds are exercise was part of your original weight loss plan. However, you may want to step up the frequency of those workouts now that you’re trying to maintain your success. If you usually get to the gym once or twice a week, try adding a third session. Or, if you can’t find the extra time, try upping the intensity of your current workouts (a trainer may be helpful in providing suggestions for ways to enhance your routine).
Turn off the TV
More than half of all “successful losers” in the Registry watch fewer than 10 hours of TV per week. This leaves them plenty of time to be more active; every bit of exercise helps to keep weight gain in check. Beware of time spent in front of other screens, as well: Computers, tablets and even your phone can all cause you to become more sedentary. Instead of watching a show or checking in on social media after dinner, try taking a walk around the neighborhood.
Research has shown that people who eat well and exercise during the week still tend to gain weight if they consistently let their guards down on the weekends. Successful Registry members, however, eat in generally the same way on Saturday and Sunday as they do during the week. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, if occasional turns into daily or “all day on Saturday,” you could be sending the scale in the wrong direction.
Whether you use an app, a computer or plain old pen and paper, journaling what you eat and how you feel encourages you to think twice about what you are choosing to munch on. Not only will the accountability help keep you on track, but reading through the journals week by week can help you understand how what you’re eating may be impacting your weight, energy levels and more.
Have a Support Team
After you’ve hit your goal weight, you may be tempted to stop attending support meetings or visiting with the nutritionist who helped you succeed. But an NWCR study finds that people who kept up that support for one year after losing the weight were more likely to keep it off than people who did not; those who stopped seeking support regained almost half of the weight they had lost. If group settings are not your style, a friend, relative or even an online weight loss buddy can help you keep your goals in mind.
Stick With It…No Matter What
Research shows that once a person has maintained weight loss for two to five years, he or she is likely to keep that weight off for life. Imagining years into the future can feel daunting, but folks who are a part of the Registry say that the changes they’ve made grow easier with time. Keep in mind that weight loss is all about the habits and choices that make up each day. If they’re hard to stick to at first, remember that tomorrow is a new beginning.