Spring is (almost) here! For many people, the warmer weather (and the clothing that goes along with it) inspires an effort to lose the extra weight they’ve been carrying. Unfortunately, of the more than two-thirds of adults who are overweight or obese, only a small number lose weight successfully for the long term. So what’s the secret of these successful losers? Is it iron willpower? Did they hit the genetic lottery?
The good news is that we no longer need to guess at why some people are better at losing than others. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) and the Global Healthy Weight Registry (GHWR) have been tracking the habits of people who’ve lost weight and were able to keep it off, as well as adults who have always been thin. Based on the insights from these two groups, here are four common habits of those who get—and stay – thin:
1. They Eat Breakfast.
Nine out of ten lean adults in the GHWR report and 78% of successful dieters in the NWCR start with a morning meal. Eating breakfast helps control appetite and cravings all morning long, and those who eat breakfast generally consume fewer calories throughout the day. Want a perfect meal to kick start your day? Try oatmeal topped with slivered almonds or walnuts. A recent study published in Nutrition Research found that that adults who ate oatmeal weighed less, and had less body fat and smaller waistlines, compared to those who didn’t eat oatmeal. Their diets were also higher in 11 essential nutrients and lower in unhealthy saturated fat.
2. They Get on the Scale…Often!
Are you afraid of weighing in? According to the data, making friends with your scale can be one of the keys to weight loss success. In fact 75% of NWCR registrants step on the scale at least once a week, which enables them to take action as soon as they notice an uptick in the numbers. Other studies also highlight the benefits of monitoring your weight: Results from a recent clinical trial showed that people who weighed themselves at least five days per week lost about three times as much—an average of 20 pounds in six months!—compared to those who weighed in less frequently. One caveat to stepping on the scale: if you suffer from an eating disorder or very slight fluctuations in weight send you into an emotional tailspin, check with your doctor or therapist first. Otherwise, step up and watch the weight come down!
3. They Exercise…A Lot!
While many studies demonstrate that diet plays a greater role in weight loss than exercise, it doesn’t mean that you can take a pass on moving more. Exercise is still critical to getting and staying fit. Nearly 90% of those in the NWCR exercise about 60 minutes a day most days of the week, while nearly half— 42%—of those in the GHWR exercise at least five days a week. Need a little help going from couch potato to fitness fanatic? Start with modest goals. If you don’t exercise at all, work with your doctor or a personal trainer to develop a program that gets you moving more over time. If you already engage in some kind of activity, but just not often enough, join a group fitness club or find a workout partner who will help keep you company – and keep you accountable to your goals.
4. They Don’t Diet!
It may sound hard to believe, but the truth about successful losers is that they rarely diet. Among those in the GHWR, 74% say they never or rarely diet. What do they do? They focus on the quality of their food choices (like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains), listen to their hunger and satiety cues, limit screen time, and eat out infrequently.