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Registry Tracks Successful Losers of Weight

health Jul 08, 2018

As I was studying to take my ACE (American Council on Exercise) Personal Trainer exam to become re-certfied (I let my certification lapse several years ago), I came across really interesting information on dieting.

In ACE's Essentials of Exercise Science textbook, their chapter on nutrition contains a summary of a very enlightening study.

The National Weight Control Registry is a database that tracks successful "losers" of 30lbs or more and who have maintained that loss for over one year. ACE's book writes that this registry "has uncovered an abundance of tried and true tips to help people lose weight and keep it off".

Brilliant! As I read this summary I became incredibly excited! What an amazing registry! Simple wisdom, easy to implement, and motivating as it provides confidence that following these tips have helped so many others.

Here are the 10 insights:

  • Control portions: We live in a time where our portions have expanded. Years ago, muffins were half the size, restaurant dishes were smaller, and a coffee only had a splash of cream and sugar, not a 500 calorie mocha with whip cream and chocolate sauce. Successful losers pay attention to serving sizes.
  • Be mindful: people need to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full, being mindful of emotional eating. Not eating during boredom, stress, sadness, etc.
  • Exercise: 94% of participants in the registry reported that they exercised. Many exercise at least 1 hour a day.
  • Check the scale: knowing what your weight is, at least on a weekly bases, helps you know if your weight starts creeping up. It's easier to lose a couple pounds that were gained in one week, than not checking and after a month having gained 10 or more pounds.
  • Eat breakfast: I was very interested when I read this one. I have always eaten breakfast, but my husband has not, and over the years he has struggled to lose weight. His typical pattern: skip breakfast, have a light lunch, and then be so hungry to overeat at dinner. 78% of participants eat breakfast daily, while only 4% never do. (Note: my husband would like to defend himself as over these past 3 years he currently eats breakfast and has lost over 30 lbs ;) ) 
  • Monitor intake: This one is BIG. And one I have had a tough time convincing clients to stick with. Log intake of food. I have done this off and on for over 20 years. It's the only thing that truly works to keep the weight off. It gives you experiential knowledge about how much food you really need on a daily basis, which is (sadly) less than most people think they need. ACE states monitoring dietary intake is "one of the strongest predictors of successful and maintained lifestyle change. While some people may find it tedious, keeping a food log is a highly effective and proven strategy". My Fitness Pal is a very handy app for smartphones that is so easy to use. Creating recipes, scanning food bar codes, and viewing daily nutritional profiles, all at your fingertips!
  • Turn off the TV: Successful NWCR participants watch 10 hours or less of television per week. I would think the reason is that watching more than that would limit your time to do physical activities (and limit your time to log your food intake!).
  • Be consistent and start today: stick to your diet, don't have a little nibble of cake here and a piece of pizza there. Very strict diets cause people to cheat. Instead, adopt a healthy lifestyle that you can stick to, instead of feeling too restricted and then binging. I love IIFIYM (if it fits in your macros), this link has a great calculator to figure out your individual needs. Using My Fitness Pal app, adding up daily macros is easy and allows for lots of flexibility.
  • Find fit friends: a study of 12,000 people followed over 30 years concluded that obesity spreads through social ties. ACE explains that "the study authors suspect that the spread of obesity has a lot to do with an individual's general perception of the social norms regarding the acceptability of obesity". Pick a friend and hit the gym together :D
  • Be optimistic: ACE states research suggests that people who have "perceived control, positive expectations, empowerment, a fighting spirit, and a lack of helplessness" are more successful at changing their habits and losing weight.