Losing weight is only half the battle. Maintaining the loss is the other half. How do some people successfully lose weight and keep it off, while so many others struggle with the lose-regain cycle?

For more than 10 years, the National Weight Control Registry has maintained a database of more than 4,500 men and women who have lost a minimum of 30 pounds and maintained the loss for at least a year. This group of successful dieters provides insight into the behaviors and strategies that lead to long term weight loss. Let’s look at some of those insights.

1. Diet changes should be realistic and sustainable. All of the successful weight loss maintainers reported that they modified their diet in some way. Most of them consumed a low-calorie, low-fat diet consisting of 1,300 to 1,680 calories, with less than 25 percent of those calories from fat. The key is to make diet changes that you can follow for the rest of your life, not just short term.

2. Keep a consistent food intake day to day, and eat four to five times a day. When good food decisions become routine, self-discipline becomes easier. With food temptations all around us, limiting your exposure is important as well. Eating similar portions throughout the week is more successful for weight loss than allowing even the occasional weekend or holiday binge.

3. Breakfast is important. Among successful weight loss maintainers, 78 percent regularly eat breakfast. This habit appears to reduce hunger throughout the day and lessens the chances of bingeing later on.

4. Keep a close eye on the scale. Frequent weighing is an important part of maintaining weight loss. Seventy-five percent of the registry’s successful maintainers weigh themselves at least weekly, with a third of them opting for daily weights.

5. Move more. The average person in the database exercises for 60 to 90 minutes every day. If they count steps, they take about 11,000 to 12,000 a day. Ninety-four percent of them increased their physical activity to lose weight. Walking was the most common form of exercise.

6. Turn off the TV. A high percentage reported watching 10 hours or less of TV per week. Compare this to the national average of 28 hours per week. Use the extra time you’ll find by not watching TV to get in the recommended 60 to 90 minutes of exercise.

7. Take corrective action quickly. Part of the reason for frequent weighing is the opportunity to respond to small weight gains by reducing food intake and/or increasing exercise before the weight gain becomes unmanageable.

8. No one diet works for everyone. There were a number of paths to successful weight loss. Some were able to achieve weight loss on their own through a variety of methods. Others participated in some type of commercial weight loss program.

9. Stay positive, and find support. Having a cheerleader at your side makes weight loss a little easier. Instead of focusing on challenges, focus on the benefits that weight loss will bring and how much better you feel when eating healthy.

10. Maintaining weight loss gets easier with time. After two to five years of maintaining, there is a high likelihood of success. The longer you maintain, the less effort and attention it requires.

Successful weight loss and maintenance require a sustained and lifelong commitment to healthful food selection, regular exercise and diligent monitoring. It’s not easy. But the health and quality of life improvements that result make weight loss worth the effort.


Roasted Pears with Oatmeal Crumble

4 servings

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp old-fashioned oats

1 Tbsp brown sugar, not packed

1 Tbsp green pumpkin seeds

1 Tbsp golden raisins, chopped

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp lemon zest

4 large firm-ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears, unpeeled, halved, cored

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. In a small bowl, use a fork to crumble butter into flour; then add the rest of the ingredients, except pears.

Cut a thin slice off the rounded side of each pear half so they will sit flat on the pan. Place on baking sheet, and sprinkle topping evenly over each pear half. Bake until crumble is golden and pears are tender — 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.

Nutrition Information: 221 calories 5 g fat, 43 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 2 g protein, 77 mg sodium

Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.