An estimated 20 percent of overweight and obese Americans have lost weight and kept it off — which might make you feel alternately inspired and a little underwhelmed.
There are a lot of opinions about losing weight, but what many dieters learn firsthand is that it can be just as difficult, if not more so, to maintain that weight loss, and yet the discussion surrounding maintenance is noticeably quieter.
The National Weight Control Registry was founded in 1994 to try to further that discussion. The Registry’s goal is to identify successful weight loss maintainers and study the habits, behaviors, skills and attitudes they share. Currently, the Registry tracks more than 10,000 Americans over the age of 18 who have maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for a year or longer.
Many have maintained much larger losses for much longer periods of time, says J. Graham Thomas, Ph.D., a co-investigator at the Registry and an assistant professor of research at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School. He shared with The Huffington Post some of the commonalities borne out in the Registry’s research so far. Although the individuals who have volunteered themselves for study are obviously a highly motivated (and self-selected) group — 87 percent maintained their weight loss over 10 years in 2014 research — it can’t hurt to emulate some of their best tricks.
Here are a few of the things successful weight maintainers do differently.
1. They make the transition from losing to maintaining as seamless as possible.
Losing weight in a way that is closest to what maintaining will feel like may bring about the most success. “In general our philosophy is that the optimal way to lose weight is a way in which the changes from weight loss to maintenance are minimized,” says Thomas. “If you lose weight on a very unusual diet, for example where you’re only eating one type of food or you’re on a liquid meal plan, it can make it more difficult to transition to maintenance. You maybe know what to do for weight loss, but then you have to relearn what to do to eat a normal healthy diet,” he says. As if you needed another reason not to try the grapefruit diet.
Instead, learning right off the bat what it feels like to consume a more wholesome diet and incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine will help build healthier patterns that truly last. “Ideally, relatively little has to change, and in that way it facilitates the transition into maintenance,” says Thomas. “It’s not that they necessarily did something very different in the two different phases.”