Success leaves clues.  Success in anything in life usually involves doing a few things well on a consistent basis. It turns out, same is true when it comes to avoiding regaining weight after successful weight loss. It is well documented that losing weight is hard and keeping the weight off is even harder.  Weight regain, has been described as the “Achilles heel” of behavioral weight loss treatment programs.  There are several reasons why it is so difficult to avoid weight.  These include hormonal metabolic adaptations, complacency, social, environmental, medical, genetic factors, and others.

Despite all these challenges, some people manage to lose weight and keep it off.  Studying people who have managed to avoid weight regain is a way to learn how to better help others who are struggling to achieve same results.  The National Weight Control Registry was established in 1994 to study the characteristics of people who succeed in losing weight and keeping it off.  It is a database of over 10,000 people who have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept if off for 5.5 years.  Most of the Registry members reported prior multiple weight loss attempts followed by regain.  They also reported enhanced commitment and using more intensive approaches during the period of success. 

The following are some of the common characteristics of these successful weight loss loser:

  1. Exercise.  90% of Registry members exercise about an hour a day. The most common form of exercise is walking.  Other forms of workouts include indoor or road bikes, aerobics, running, weightlifting and others
  2. Regular breakfast.  78% report that they eat breakfast routinely
  3. Self-monitoring.  75% weigh at least once a week
  4. Limited TV time.  62% watch less than 10 hours of TV a day.  The average American spends about three times as much time watching TV.
  5. Frequent meals. Registry members eat almost five time a day but consume fewer calories
  6. Dietary consistency.  Participants report following the same pattern of eating with little change on weekends and holidays
  7. Lower frequency of fast-food consumption.  Most members prepare most meals at home with less than 1 meal per week from fast-food.
  8. Less emotional eating

These characteristics of successful weight losers is a good template for anyone trying to avoid weight regain.

Ife Ojugbeli, MD, MBA.