How do people lose weight and keep it off?

Sadly, two out of every three Americans are overweight and one in three classified as obese. It is said 90 – 95 percent of those that lose weight will gain it back. If the statistics are so grim, why bother trying to lose weight? Certainly some people are successful. Read on, there’s good news!

How do they do it? Paleo? Low carb? Weight Watchers? Jenny Craig? Vegetarian? Surgery? None of the above? Some are successful following a certain program and many are successful on their own.

Success often comes from just eating less and exercising more. Novel idea isn’t it?

Habits of successful (weight loss) losers

What are their secrets? According to a registry of individuals that have lost weight and kept it off, success is based on several things—a few of which I will identify. The National Weight Control Registry tracks over 10,000 people. Registry members are diverse in their weight loss—some have lost 30 pounds, some 300 but on average have lost 66 pounds and they’ve kept it off 5-1/2 years.

Here are some of their habits:

  • Their eating habits are consistent. Successful losers are more likely to eat consistently during the week, weekends, and over holidays. In other words, they were not likely to be more strict during the week than on weekends. Although some were more flexible over weekends and holidays, long term they were less likely to maintain weight loss than the consistent eaters.
  • Most don’t skip breakfast. It’s called breakfast for a reason—break the fast. Skipping breakfast often leads to overeating later in thelose weight day. By starting off with a good choice early, better choices will more likely occur throughout the day. Over 78 percent of the registrants report eating breakfast every day. Check out my blog post 7 High Protein Breakfasts to Curb Hunger if you need some great ideas. Note that most don’t skip breakfast. That does not mean everyone must eat breakfast. Everyone is an individual and must find what works for them. (Contact me if you’re interested in my individualized coach approach.)
  • They weigh regularly. Many find success keeping close tabs on their weight by weighing at least once a week. It’s especially helpful in weight maintenance. By checking the scale, it gives them the opportunity to take corrective action if there is an increase in weight.
  • They exercise. Engaging in exercise is a habit that is critical. Only 9% reported no regular exercise program. Many did not start out in beach-runners-tiletheir weight loss efforts enjoying it, but learned to. Interestingly, once exercise becomes a priority, healthy eating often follows. Conversely, healthy eating often leads to more exercise. Ninety percent were active most days of the week for 60 minutes. The most popular form of exercise is walking.
  • They got help. Over half (55 percent) used a program of some sort while 45 percent lost weight on their own.

Other noteworthy items include persistence, the importance of self monitoring with food records, limiting TV watching—62 percent watch less than 10 hours per week, and getting back on track as quickly as possible.

Persistence. Many of those surveyed were not successful on their first try. Often it was the second or third or fourth try. Frequently there was a history of yo-yo dieting. Most importantly, their persistence paid off. This is good news for those that think their efforts are hopeless. They’re not. There is no magic potion; what works for one person won’t necessarily work for everyone. Don’t give up.

food journalFood records. This is a very powerful tool. Writing down what you eat makes you much more aware of food consumed. I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts but it makes a point. I had a client who resisted keeping food records, “But I eat differently when I write it down.” As soon as she said that, she realized that’s exactly the point. It increases the awareness and subsequently (hopefully) the habit. There are many online services and apps that can make record keeping easier, such as,,,

Eating out. With many restaurant entrees 800 – 1500 calories or more, it’s no wonder weight loss can be challenging. Many restaurants are posting calorie information—even offering lighter fare with calories ranging from 500 – 700. By eating more at home, you have control over food preparation and portion size. The successful losers limit eating out.

Refocus. Get back on track as quickly as possible. Indulge too much last night? Social engagements make watching your food intake challenging? Vacation set you back a bit? So what. Now what? Don’t beat yourself up. Today is a new day—move on. Follow the 80/20 rule. If 80 percent of the time you’re doing the right thing, 20 percent of the time you can afford some indiscretions.

Start fresh ASAP

One of the most important things I can ever tell someone is that last point about refocusing. Too often people get derailed and never get back on track.

There have been instances in my career where I would be seeing someone only one time. It was important I got a message across which I share with you. One meal, one day, one weekend, one week, or a vacation is not going to make or break your hard won healthy eating plan. The most important thing is to get right back on track—the next possible opportunity. Trust me, any lost ground will quickly be regained.

To your good health!

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For more information on the National Weight Control Registry:


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