Whether you want to lose five pounds or 50, dieting is not an easy task. The only thing that is easy is getting distracted by fads and quick-fix gimmicks. The surest path to success is focusing on tried-and-true techniques used by those who have successfully maintained substantial weight loss.
One source for such techniques is the National Weight Control Registry (www.nwcr.ws/default.htm). The registry tracks 10,000 people who maintain a substantial weight loss. To qualify, you must have sustained a weight loss of at least 30 pounds for one year or more. The registry’s website includes research studies explaining how registry members keep the weight off. Participants featured in the site’s “success stories” share their tips, which emphasize accountability, support systems and consistency.
Track food intake
Most of the registry’s success stories reference food logs or other records. Tracking food intake can be an eye-opening experience. Registry member Drew relates in his story that once he started tracking his food he realized he was eating 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day — a contributing factor to his high weight of 325 pounds.
Track your food the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, or establish a free account at a website like www.sparkpeople.com or www.myfitnesspal.com. (Both have smartphone apps for tracking on the go.)
Develop a support system
The success stories emphasize the importance of a support system. One participant even met his wife in a weight loss support group. Surrounding yourself with people who are also making healthy choices and respect your new lifestyle is important. Otherwise, you’ll succumb to temptation and sabotage your progress.
In addition to support from family and friends, you can find weight-loss buddies online. Both www.sparkpeople.com and www.myfitnesspal.com have busy message boards where dieters commiserate and celebrate together.
Set a fitness goal
Each of the National Weight Control Registry success stories mentions exercise. You simply can’t lose weight without burning calories through physical activity. One way to make exercise more palatable is to set a fitness goal that isn’t tied to the scale. Instead, aim to complete your first 5k or a sprint triathlon.
Once again, the Internet is a boon. The Couch to 5K program at www.coolrunning.com takes the guesswork out of creating a training plan — and once again, there are smartphone apps that will tell you exactly when to run and when to walk while you’re training.
Prepare your own food
More and more restaurants are publishing nutrition information these days, but if you want to truly be confident of your caloric intake, you need to prepare most of your own food. Success story Gary, who has maintained a 75-pound weight loss for more than eight years, says that he avoids fast food and cooks most of his own meals himself using as many organic ingredients as possible.
When it comes to weight loss, there’s no easy answer, but hard work and consistency will make it happen.