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Articles January 2012 Issue

Secrets of Keeping Off the Weight You Lose

Despite the talk of “yo-yo dieting,” it is possible to lose weight and keep most of it off, according to new research on 3,000 participants in the National Weight Control Registry. Investigators led by J. Graham Thomas, PhD, of Brown University evaluated questionnaires completed by people who had been in the registry, which tracks successful dieters, for at least 10 years. About three-quarters were women and most were college educated. The goal was to understand how some people are able to keep off the pounds they shed.

The dieters originally weighed an average of 224 pounds before losing weight. They reported that they’d kept off an average 51 pounds of 69 pounds lost. It’s typical, says Thomas, for dieters to regain some of the weight they lose. But how were these participants able to succeed in maintaining so much of their weight loss?

In findings presented at a meeting of the Obesity Society, Thomas and colleagues identified strategies shared by those who’d kept off most of their lost pounds:

  • Eating breakfast regularly.
  • Walking about an hour a day, or burning an equivalent amount of calories by engaging in other activities.
  • Weighing yourself at least weekly.
  • Tracking food intake.
  • Counting calories and fat grams or using commercial weight-loss software to track intake.
  • Limiting eating out to an average of three times a week including all meals, while consuming fast food less than once a week.
  • Limiting food variety, mostly eating similar foods from week to week, and not splurging much on holidays and special occasions.
  • Watching fewer than 10 hours a week of TV.

The successful dieters averaged about 1,800 calories a day, with less than 30% of those calories from fats.

“I think these strategies are good basic advice,” says Susan B. Roberts, PhD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Energy Metabolism Laboratory, who works with dieters as author of The I DietM “As we see in our ‘I’ dieters, catching problems quickly is a major route to ongoing success, which is why regular weighing and tracking what you eat are so valuable.”

TO LEARN MORE: National Weight Control Registry, 196 Richmond St., Providence, RI 02903, (800) 606-NWCR (6927),,

Comments (8)

the article doesn't state how many were actually able to keep the weight off, but I bet it wasn't many. The suggestions sure sound like they would work, but they sound almost impossible to do. There's
got to be an easier way.

Posted by: william gregory | March 8, 2014 3:03 AM    Report this comment

Its not impossible if you WANT TO DO IT.

In order to keep it off you must change your life, which by itself is not easy, but it can be done.You cant simply diet, lose weight and expect keeping it off to be easy.It involves a mental change AND IT TAKES TIME. Also, once you reach goal you cant go back to the old way of eating. If you do you will gain every single lbs lost. The key is changing your life style to something you feel you can do the rest of you life, losing it slowly will allow you to do this, There is no quick easy fix, losing weight is a job that has to be done whether you feel motivated or not, In the long run the paycheck of good health is worth it.

Posted by: Samantha Jones | August 25, 2014 10:55 AM    Report this comment

I lost nearly 40 lbs in the past year by folliowing the 5:2 diet (also called the Fast Diet but really it is a slow diet). Popularized by Michael Mosley and PBS. Basically you eat & drink whatever you want 5 days a week and on 2 days a week limit your daily calories to 500 (women) or 600 (men). Plan includes intense exercise - I do spinning - 1 min daily. I add 1 hr daily walking the dog. Simple and it works. Have kept weight off, in fact still losing so will probably go to 6:1.

Posted by: the walters | September 6, 2014 6:25 PM    Report this comment

if you want something badly enough then it will happen. I lost 77 lbs now weigh 167 perfect for my 5'10" frame and I do exactly what is recommended and I didn't get it here either my trainer suggested it to me. I decided at 67 I want to be fit so I hired a trainer splurged on myself. I am glad that it is suggested here too because I have been maintaining for over 4.5 years now......

Posted by: Billy Evans | December 3, 2014 7:00 AM    Report this comment

I have controlled my weight by calculating how many calories MY body needs every day.It was not the recommended 2,000 calories. I am short and walk 1 hour in total a day.
I weighed myself daily for a month and logged my food intake (calories). I realised that my body needed only 1,600 calories a day before gaining weight. Now, i make sure i eat lots of salads with a deck of cards size of protein at each meal. I have reduced snacking to 300 calories whenever I fancy a nibble. I make sure 90% of what I eat is healthy. Chococru cocoa is fat reduced and high in flavanols. It helps me feel nourished and is a very healthychocolate indulgence. No guilt here! Luckily my plan keeps my weight stable.

Posted by: MEZA Hickman | September 16, 2015 4:05 AM    Report this comment

Most of the comments are over a year old.

I am 80 and almost completely vegan. The last bastion of bad food to eliminate is sugar, a work in progress. I swim 2-3 miles a week and do other exercises most other days.

When you are my age a healthy lifestyle has a bit more urgency. I have found the gradual approach to change to be the easiest. I would never have had the discipline to do this at a younger age.

Now I am addicted to exercise because of the endorphans (runners high) and have grown to love the taste of vegetables and fruits. Would not go back to meat and dairy for any reason. As Yoda says, "There is no try, only do or not do.

Posted by: James Flint | January 18, 2016 3:59 PM    Report this comment

There is nothing you cannot do IF YOU REALLY wanna do it. Go slow and simple. No shocking of the body with anything intense. It has to all start from our MINDS and our body will adhere to its instructions.
I find eating greens, fruits, legume, nuts and fish quite helpful, with 3 times yoga a week.
Good luck.

Posted by: Taralina Gaee-Atefi | October 25, 2016 10:12 PM    Report this comment

Finally after 45 yrs. of careful and strict diets alternated with small gains and maintenance, I finally learned it wasn't worth it to me to "work" at eating and doing hard exercise. Now at age 60, I jut eat about 1800 c a day and go for a walk if I want to. I may lose a half lb. a week, and already am surprised at the loss of 10 solid lbs which I didn't "work" at. Slow and steady you can lose and keep off 236 lb in a year, and not notice it. I am a female, 5'4.5" and I eat small prtions, half dessert sizes and just make wise choices. Don't eat less than 1500-1800 c a day or you will just gain a third or more of it back. Lose no more than 1/2 lb a week.

Posted by: Barb Lehman | March 19, 2017 2:10 AM    Report this comment

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