17 May 12 What Helps Adults Lose Weight & Maintain Weight Loss?

Did you watch HBO's "Weight of the Nation" earlier this week? It is a four-part film series made for the general public – it combines compelling personal accounts along with accurate, evidence-based information about weight control. Everyone would benefit from watching this documentary, including health care providers who do not already work in the area of weight control.

Adults & Weight Control

In "Part 2: Choices," the focus was adult weight control. Although the film covered many important topics, I want to share a few summary points that I found particularly helpful in regard to weight control.

1. Journaling food intake and exercise helps us be accountable for our eating and exercise behaviors. Consider using a mobile app to make journaling simple and at your fingertips.

2. Fad diets might succeed at weight loss, but they fail at weight maintenance since they are not sustainable eating plans. These diets typically exclude entire food groups – this leads to a big drop in calories intake which then causes dramatic weight loss. But once people go off these plans, they simply regain the weight that they lost.

3. Mindful eating helps us pay attention to the "what, why, where, and when" of eating. It is particularly helpful to tease apart eating to relieve hunger vs. eating to relieve stress or boredom.

4. Avoid drinking your calories since those calories are just added on top of food calories. Caloric beverages to be especially careful to limit given their sugar content: soda pop, sweet tea, energy drinks, juice drinks, and juice.

5. Regular physical activity is important for weight loss maintenance. Exercise will increase total calories burned, supports strength and balance, and helps control blood pressure, blood glucose, and stress. About 1 hour of moderate exercise per day works appears to be most effective for weight maintenance.

6. Social support helps people stick to their weight loss and maintenance goals. The documentary shows how three women, who lost about 100 lbs each, lost and now maintain their weight using social support. If you are isolated, considering using an online forum to help connect with others.

7. Losing weight is easier than maintaining weight loss. Researchers have found that a person who has lost a significant amount of weight and is maintaining at that weight will require about 20% fewer calories than another person of the same height, weight, sex, and age. That is, the "weight loss maintainer" might need 1600 calories to maintain her weight whereas the "never-lost-weight" friend might need 2000 calories. Long term calories tracking can help you become an expert on how many calories you need to maintain your weight.

8. Lifestyle always matters. Eating fewer calories from a variety of healthful foods from all food groups and regular physical activity are basic behaviors that are harder to master initially, but result in weight control success over the long term. Lifestyle factors are also critical to reducing the risk of progressing to Type 2 diabetes.

9. Your genes are not your destiny. Your health is a result of the interaction between your genetic make-up and your lifestyle choices. A great example of this is comes from the story of Tim and Paul, middle-aged identical twins featured in the documentary. Tim controlled his weight and exercised regularly, which prevented him from progressing to Type 2 diabetes. Paul did not pay attention to those lifestyle changes and found himself struggling to control Type 2 diabetes.

10. First, aim to lose 5-10% of your body weight. Significant health benefits are seen with losing 5-10% of body weight when an individual is overweight. That would be 10-20 lbs for a 200 lb person. See my MyNetDiary blog post for more information on setting SMART goals.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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