What does it take to have weight loss success? In 1994 Rena Wing a behavioural psychologist at Brown University and James Hill a paediatrician at University of Colorado founded the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) in their search for the true secret to permanent weight loss.
They invited anyone who lost 30 pounds (~15kg) and had kept the weight off for a minimum of one year to join. From the thousands who responded fitting that criteria they collected a range of data and filtered through the data in search of answers.
Some of the people in the NWCR had used Weight Watchers. Others used a low fat diet or LCHF (low carbs, high fat). Some used liquid diets while others used weight loss supplements. The common diet they all used was that there was no common diet.
The similarities they found was that the people in the NWCR typically ate more vegetables and less sweets than the average American, but there was no ‘One True Way‘ that could be attributed to the success of the long term weight loss.
The NWCR found that there were 3 key traits that all people on their registry utilised.
1. Self Weighing
Self weighing regularly is one of the three keys to success, although it is controversial in the dieting community and often avoided by a number of overweight people especially females. One side of the coin is against weigh ins, as it fosters an unhealthy obsession with weight. However regular weighing allows you to catch weight gains before they become excessive and thus change your behaviours to get you back on track.
By tracking 3,000 registry members in 2007 Wing & Hill confirmed that the people who weighed themselves less frequently regained nearly 4 times as much weight than those who weighed themselves more frequently.
2. Eating Consistently
Having minimal variety in their meals helped successful dieters limit their calorie intake within an appropriate range. Consistency is the key. Although there is nothing to indicate how often you cycle through the same menu I believe weekly or fortnightly planned menus will provide enough consistency and not be boring like eating the same menu on a daily basis.
The data showed that people who maintained their diet consistency from week to weekend and from season to season were the most successful at keeping weight off. Both the weekend and holiday seasons were where most people had the most weight gains. By avoiding changing your diet over these periods you will be able to maintain the gains you achieved earlier in the week or year.
3. Lots of Exercise
If you are following this blog you are no doubt doing so because you are interested in exercise. It should be no surprise that exercising is the third key to weight loss success.
Data from the NWCR showed that people who successfully kept the weight off expended an extra 2,621 Calories (~11,000 kJ) per week through structured exercise sessions. That is enough to burn off 20kg in a year.
The key fact is that diet changes account for the initial positive changes, however without exercise those changes don’t last. Exercise is the key factor to ensure you keep the weight off that you have achieved.
The three traits appear unrelated but they are insights into the driving motivation behind someone trying to lose weight. Weighing yourself daily might seem excessive but consider who will be more successful with weight loss? Someone who is obsessed with losing weight or someone who is not? Eating the same food 7 days per week, 365 days a year takes discipline. Successful people have discipline, same as they are also obsessed. Compared to most dieters who exercise little, those that exercise a lot are serious about ensuring their weight loss success.
For more information about the studies conducted by the NWCR there is a more in depth chapter in Matt Fitzgerald’s book Diet Cults- The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us.
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