Successful Weight Loss: What Behaviors Increase Your Chances?
The National Weight Control Registry is an ongoing investigation that began in 1994 under the direction of Rena Wing, Ph.D. of Brown Medical School and James O. Hill, Ph.D. of the University of Colorado. The goal of the NWCR is to identify traits associated with successful weight loss and its maintenance. To date, the registry has studied over 6,000 successful weight loss maintainers (i.e., individuals who have lost and maintained a minimum of 30 pounds for at least one year). Information regarding the health behaviors and demographics of NWCR participants have been obtained through questionnaires and annual follow-up surveys. Here is what has been found:
- Physical Activity: Approximately 54% of the participants expend more than 2,000 calories per week through exercise, with walking accounting for the physical activity mode of choice for 52.2 percent of NWCR enrollees. Other common activities include: biking, weight lifting and aerobics.
- Decreased Sedentary Time: NWCR participants spend less time engaging in sedentary pursuits, with 62% of members watching less than 10 hours of TV per week.
- Diet Composition: On average, weight loss maintainers consume a low-calorie (approximately 1,380 calories per day) and a low-fat (less than 30 percent of total daily intake from fat) diet. In fact, 92% of successful weight loss maintainers limit foods high in fat and sugar.
- Dietary Behaviors: Approximately 78% of NWCR participants eat breakfast. They also tend to eat regularly throughout the day (about 5 times compared to the average American who eats 2 to 3 times per day). In addition, individuals who are successful at weight loss maintenance prepare and eat most of their meals at home. Furthermore, they eat consistent diets that vary little and they adhere to the same pattern of eating even during weekends and on holidays.
- Self-Monitoring: NWCR members keep track of their progress. The majority of NWCR participants monitor the amount of fat and total calories consumed daily. Seventy-five percent weigh themselves at least once per week.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
The National Weight Control Registry
ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal; "The National Weight Control Registry: A Study of 'Successful Losers'"; J. Graham Thomas, Ph.D., et al.; March/April 2011