Successful Weight Loss
Although many people who lose weight may eventually gain it back, it's a myth that this happens to everyone, says Rena Wing, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I. Wing, the co-developer of a research study known as the National Weight Control Registry, has worked to deflate this myth.
Tucked away in the registry's database is information about the weight-control behaviors of more than 3,000 American adults who have lost an average of 60 pounds and have kept it off for an average of six years.
How Do They Do It?
These successful weight losers report four common behaviors, says Wing. They eat a low-calorie, low-fat diet, they monitor themselves by weighing in frequently, they are very physically active, and they eat breakfast. Eating breakfast every day is contrary to the typical pattern for the average overweight person who is trying to diet, says Wing. "They get up in the morning and say 'I'm going to start my diet today,' and they eat little or no breakfast and a light lunch. Then they get hungry and consume most of their calories late in the day. Successful weight losers have managed to change this pattern."
Six years after their weight loss, most of the registry's successful losers still report eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet. They also exercise for about an hour or more a day, expending about 2,800 calories per week on a variety of activities. Wing also reports that more than 70 percent of the registry's weight losers became overweight before age 18.
Although Barbara Croft of Columbus, Ohio, was not an overweight child, she gained weight once she left home and started cooking for herself. Replacing the plain and simple meals she had as a child with pizza, sodas, and meat and vegetables laden with sauces, the 5-foot-5-inch Croft worked her way up to 350 pounds. "I always ate from all the food groups. I just ate huge portions and I ate in between meals," says Croft.
When she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Croft got scared. "I worried about the health consequences, about going blind. I already have a little numbness in my feet."
Croft went on a diet and lost 200 pounds in 19 months. She has continued to keep it off for more than three years. "This is the third time I've lost over 100 pounds," says the 52-year-old, 150-pound Croft, "but this is the longest I've been able to keep the weight off." In her two previous weight losses, Croft ate nutritious meals, but didn't exercise. This time, she started walking for exercise, but could only walk about a block at first. "My husband went with me because he was afraid I wouldn't make it," she says. Now, Croft walks on a treadmill for 50 minutes a day, 25 minutes each morning and night.
She still eats balanced meals, but restricts her portions. And she always eats breakfast. "I have Egg Beaters, two pieces of low-calorie bread, fruit, decaf coffee, and 8 ounces of water." Croft dines out almost every night, typically eating half her dinner of grilled chicken or salmon and a vegetable or salad. She sends the other half back so she isn't tempted to overeat. "Losing the weight was easy, maintaining it is much harder," says Croft.
Croft had tried commercial weight-loss programs in the past, but this last time she did it on her own. "You have to find out what works for you," she says. Croft's diabetes is under control now without medication. And she says her knees don't hurt anymore, she can buy clothes in a regular store, and she started traveling again now that she can fit into an airplane seat.
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