Feature Archive

4 Keys to Weight Loss Success

Successful "losers" share four factors in their ability to take weight off and keep it off.

By James Hill
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Cynthia Haines

If you listen to a lot of the stories in the media, you might believe that losing weight and keeping it off is virtually impossible. The common wisdom is pretty discouraging. Sure, you can lose weight, but what's the point, since you'll just put it on again sooner or later? And since your body type is determined by your genes, why bother trying anyway?

Well, here's the encouraging news: Regardless of body type or genetics, all sorts of people are successfully losing weight and keeping it off. While it may take some hard work and dedication, you can as well.

The National Weight Control Registry

In 1993, we started the National Weight Control Registry as a way of studying the behaviors of people who successfully lost weight and kept it off. We wanted to see what methods these people had in common, since they could help us discover the best strategies for weight maintenance.

To enroll in the Registry, a person must have maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for at least a year. However, on average, members of the Registry have lost 67 pounds and kept it off for six years. Those are inspiring figures.

Looking at the data, we haven't seen evidence to confirm the idea that our genes make our destiny when it comes to weight. If people really had a genetic "set point" weight as some argue, why would the average weight of Americans be getting heavier each year? While genes certainly play a role, they don't predetermine what your weight will always be. Instead, they provide a range of weights that are possible depending on your diet and amount of exercise. So you have more control over your weight than you might think.

By looking at the behavior of the 4,200 people in the Registry, we've identified four common characteristics of those who've lost weight and are now keeping it off. These suggestions don't make up a diet program. But if you're looking for ways to keep weight off, adopting these behaviors isn't a bad way to start.

Lose Weight For Life
* Day One: Set Your Mind to It     * Day Four: Fighting 40s Flab
* Day Two: Conquering Cravings    * Day Five: Weight Loss Ever After
* Day Three: Magic Bullets?

Eat a Low-Fat, High-Carbohydrate Diet

Although a lot of people may think of only pasta and bread when they hear the word "carbohydrates," complex carbohydrates are in many foods, not only grains but also in beans and many vegetables. People in the Registry say they get about 56% of their calories from such carbohydrates, and only about 19% of calories from protein. Fat makes up about 25% of their diet. People in the Registry also say they consume 1,300 to 1,400 calories a day on average, but that number is probably lower than what they actually eat.

Remember that a good diet probably isn't one that makes you outlaw certain types of food. Being too strict can make it hard to stick to a healthy eating plan. The problem for most people is not so much that they're eating the wrong things, but that they're eating too much. Moderation is important.