Weight loss nutrition is a big conversation topic. In the past decade or two, people have become busier and busier, leaving us more dependent upon convenience foods, eating-on-the-go and restaurant meals than ever before. While these types of food products are effective in providing easy access to complete meals, they’re rarely a healthy option. What’s more is that modern conveniences–like elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, dishwashers and cars have replaced virtually all of the energy-expending activities in our daily lives. The result? The United States of America is actually the most obese country in the world, which is not something that anyone wants to be known for. Until we stop abusing these conveniences and start making an effort to counteract our sedentary lives, our country’s obesity problem–and the adverse health consequences associated with it–will continue to plague us.
There are no silver bullets when it comes to reversing the trend, but good old fashioned hard work. We didn’t get this way overnight, and we can’t fix our situation overnight either. Weight loss pills, so-called miracle diets, 8-minute daily exercise regimens or machines that promise to do the work for you are simply too good to be true. They just don’t work, period.
So what does work? Ask the members of the National Weight Control Registry: a group of 5,000 Americans who have lost their excess weight (an average of 66 pounds), and kept if off for the longer-term (an average of 5.5 years). Research conducted on these people reveals several common habits of highly-successful losers, and while they may not be easy, they don’t require that you spend a dime on worthless supplements or gimmicky diet plans.
- Eat a healthy breakfast, every day. While it may seem counter-intuitive, eating breakfast every day has been associated with lower BMI in numerous research studies, and indeed 78% of registrants report eating breakfast daily. Skipping a meal–particularly after your body has been fasting all night– may actually slow your metabolism, meaning that you’ll burn fewer calories throughout the day. In addition, skipping breakfast can mean that you’re ravenous by the time lunchtime rolls around, causing you to consume more calories for the day than if you had actually eaten a morning meal.
- Walk…a lot! 90% of registrants exercise for an average of one hour per day, and walking is the most common form of exercise reported. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, so long as you do it. The best exercise regimen is the one you can stick to, so choose an activity that’s convenient for you and fun… and better yet, enlist a friend to join you!
- Weigh yourself. It may not be fun to face the scale every week, but 75% of registrants do it. That’s because regular self-monitoring increases your accountability for the dietary and exercise behaviors you employ during the week, and can tip you off to upward trends in your weight that you can then nip in the bud before they get out of control.
- Turn off the TV. Not only is TV-watching a sedentary behavior in which you’re exerting almost no energy, it tends to be accompanied by mindless snacking on foods with varying degrees of healthfulness. Getting off the couch to do something that involves standing up (and ideally moving, too) is one strategy that successful weight loss registrants have in common: 62% of them watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
- Start with your diet. 98% of registrants modified their diet somehow, and to lose weight, you’ll likely have to do so, too. There are basic rules of weight loss and healthy living that focus on eating fewer processed foods and having smaller portions of everything…except vegetables, of course. Eating off smaller plates can help. Eat out at restaurants less and cook your own meals from scratch more. If it sounds like a lot of work, just remember you’ll need a new activity to replace those hours of TV you’ll be cutting out! If you don’t have a lot of time during the week, cook meals on the weekends and freeze them until you want to have them for dinner. Try packing a lunch for work, too. And don’t drink your calories (except for protein and calcium-rich skim milk)… tap water is better for you and costs nothing. With all the money you save from eating out and buying bottled drinks, you can buy yourself a new wardrobe to fit your svelte new physique!