Lasting and long term weight loss may seem like an uphill battle, but it is possible. Here's what we know works, from research on long-term losers:
If you've ever dropped pounds and then tried to maintain your weight, you've probably blamed yourself when the number on the scale started creeping back up. With enough resolve, shouldn't you be able to avoid regain? Well, emerging research shows that faulty willpower is not the main culprit. "Multiple systems in your body conspire against you in a push to regain lost weight," explains Michael Rosenbaum, MD, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and a top obesity researcher. After you've slimmed down, your brain, muscles and hormones work together to slow down your metabolism, so you naturally burn hundreds of fewer calories each day. In fact, Rosenbaum's research reveals that people who've lost weight require 400 fewer calories per day to keep the scale steady compared with people who never went through a slim down. Fortunately, there are proven ways to counteract these pound-hoarding tendencies. "It's not a losing battle," stresses Holly Wyatt, MD, associate director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado, Denver. "You can keep the weight off for the long run." By analyzing data from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) - a database of more than 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept them off for a minimum of one year - experts have discovered strategies that work, many of them quite different from the ones that help take off pounds in the first place. "Losing weight and maintaining it are really two different animals," Dr. Wyatt notes. Mastering the art of maintenance is the key to making sure your goal weight turns into your new normal.
Success Secret #1
YOU HAVE TO MOVE EVERY SINGLE DAY
"The most successful long-term dieters simply move more," Dr. Wyatt says. "When you're active, you're fighting your body's tendency to keep the weight from returning." 90% of the NWCR's success cases exercise about 60 minutes a day on average. Being very active goes beyond just burning calories, although that is a big part of it. Exercise also triggers other helpful biological systems: Hormones like epinephrine and adiponectin that cut down on your fat stores kick into higher, actively incinerating flab up to 24 hours after your workout. Plus, there's the health halo effect: "When you're more active, you feel better about yourself and you make better food choices and avoid couch potato behaviour," Dr Wyatt says. Recent research from Stanford University School of Medicine shows that good habits truly reinforce each other. People who focused on changing both diet and exercise habits were significantly more likely to get in their regular workouts and to follow healthy eating plans than those who focused on either diet or exercise separately.
If you don't have time for a full hour of exercise every day, it's fine to break it up into spurts of activity. Doing 10 focused minutes here and there throughout the day is effectively equivalent to one big workout, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Success Secret #2
MAINTAINING MUSCLE MATTERS
There's an unfortunate side effect of losing weight: You tend to lose lean muscle along with the flab. (This can also happen if you always skip the weight training in favour of cardio.) Since muscle burns more than twice as many calories as fat (7-10 calories for a pound of muscle compared with 2-3 calories for a pound of fat), the more muscle you keep, the higher your metabolism will be. Recent research finds that doing resistance training - using weights or just your own body weight - a few times per week can increase the number of calories you burn even at rest by 100 a day or more. This is important if you are going to maintain your new lean profile: In a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, twice as many people who did regular strength training lost weight and kept it off compared with those who didn't.
You don't have to make like a bodybuilder to get stronger. Sneak simple bodyweight moves, like squats, push-ups, lunges and dips and even strength-building yoga poses (think Warrior 2 or Chair pose) into your routine a few days a week, whether it's a set of each in the morning before your shower or a pre-dinner circuit. You'll hit all your major muscles in just a short workout.
See our GetFitFaster.ca exercise library for some quick workout options.
More success secrets in tomorrow's health tip.
Source: Alyssa Shaffer