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Maintaining Weight Loss

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36 percent of adult Americans attempt to lose weight, and 56 percent attempt to maintain their current weight or keep from gaining weight.

How do people successfully lose weight and keep it off?
Healthy low-calorie and low-fat diets as well as high levels of physical activity are the foundation for success, according to the researchers who maintain the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a database of people who have self-reported successful weight loss and maintenance of weight loss.

Although the criteria for entry into the NWCR is the achievement and maintenance of weight loss of 30 pounds or more for at least one year, the average NWCR participant has lost about 60 pounds and kept it off for about five years.

When participants were asked questions about how they maintained their weight loss, the NWCR researchers found that:

  • 92 percent limited their intake of certain foods (one example: eating at fast food restaurants less than once a week).
  • They consumed an average of 1400 calories per day, of which 24 percent of calories was from fat, 19 percent protein, and 56 percent carbohydrates.
  • They ate five times a day, on average.
  • They burned an average of 2,800 calories a week through exercise (an equivalent of about 400 calories day).
  • 75 percent weighed themselves regularly - at least once a week.
  • About one-third described weight maintenance as hard, one-third as moderately easy, and one-third as easy.
  • 42 percent reported that maintaining their weight loss was less difficult than initially losing the weight.

Watch Your Diet

  • Follow a healthy and realistic eating pattern. You have embarked on a healthier lifestyle, now the challenge is maintaining the positive eating habits you've developed along the way. In studies of people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year, most continued to eat a diet lower in calories as compared to their pre-weight loss diet.2 For more suggestions regarding a healthful diet, visit Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight.
  • Keep your eating patterns consistent. Follow a healthy eating pattern regardless of changes in your routine. Plan ahead for weekends, vacations, and special occasions. By making a plan, it is more likely you'll have healthy foods on hand for when your routine changes.
  • Eat breakfast every day. Eating breakfast is a common trait among people who have lost weight and kept it off. Eating a healthful breakfast may help you avoid getting "over-hungry" and then overeating later in the day.

Be Active

  • Get daily physical activity. People who have lost weight and kept it off typically engage in 60β€”90 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week while not exceeding calorie needs. This doesn't necessarily mean 60β€”90 minutes at one time. It might mean 20β€”30 minutes of physical activity three times a day. For example, a brisk walk in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. Some people may need to talk to their healthcare provider before participating in this level of physical activity.

Stay on Course

  • Monitor your diet and activity. Keeping a food and physical activity journal can help you track your progress and spot trends. For example, you might notice that your weight creeps up during periods when you have a lot of business travel or when you have to work overtime. Recognizing this tendency can be a signal to try different behaviors, such as packing your own healthful food for the plane and making time to use your hotel's exercise facility when you are traveling. Or if working overtime, maybe you can use your breaks for quick walks around the building.
  • Monitor your weight. Check your weight regularly. When managing your weight loss, it’s a good idea to keep track of your weight so you can plan accordingly and adjust your diet and exercise plan as necessary. If you have gained a few pounds, get back on track quickly.
  • Get support from family, friends, and others. People who have successfully lost weight and kept it off often rely on support from others to help them stay on course and get over any "bumps." Sometimes having a friend or partner who is also losing weight or maintaining a weight loss can help you stay motivated.