This past April, I attended a talk from leading obesity, weight loss and weight maintenance expert, Dr. James O. Hill of the Anshutz Health & Wellness Center at the University of Colorado. In addition to producing cutting edge research on weight loss and maintenance, Hill and his colleagues support participants of the ABC series, Extreme Weight Loss, with medical oversight, weight loss and nutrition services.
The Center’s primary goals are to increase individuals’ physical activity and to promote ‘smart eating’ and NOT food restriction. The Center also encourages individuals to develop cognitive skills to push against their own biological drive toward consuming nutrient dense calories – essentially helping people become more mindful of when they are hungry and their food choices.
Throughout the talk, Hill provided many ‘tidbits’ for successful weight loss and maintenance compiled from his and colleagues research, including:
1. Adherence – the ability to adhere to your weight loss intervention – be it increasing your physical activity, trying a new trendy diet or working hard to reduce your portion sizes and stopping eating when you are full – is critical for losing weight. Hill’s studies showed that individuals who chose activities they were able to adhere to were more successful at losing weight and keeping it off.
2. Pair Dieting Tactics with Physical Activity – based on studies of the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks over 10,000 individuals who have successfully reduced their body weight and maintained a healthy body weight, most individuals were able to keep weight off by incorporating pairing physical activity into their lives in addition to dieting.
3. Reduced calories are the key to success – participants in the Registry were also more likely to choose low-fat diets that focused on reducing their daily caloric load. This can be accomplished through mindful eating and portion control as well, not necessarily just a low-fat diet. MealEnders is a great tool for helping build more mindful habits around food!
4. Have a supporting spouse, partner or friend – one surprising finding in the Registry was that most individuals who successfully lost weight ended up separating from their romantic partners during the process. Hill hypothesized many reasons for this, including the need for a supportive social network. In order to keep up your healthy behaviors, you need to be surrounded by people that support your behavior change goals.
5. Practice dietary restraint – also known as ‘dieting’, dietary restraint was a common practice for most individuals in the Registry. Sustaining your effort to monitor and control your food intake will help you be successful in your weight loss and maintenance goals. MealEnders is a great tool for helping support you in dietary restraint.*
6. It takes time, so keep a positive mindset – according to Hill, a positive mindset is key for weight loss and weight maintenance. What is a positive mindset? Having the belief that you have the ability to lose weight – if you believe it, the more easily you can work to achieve it.
7. Willpower, habits and rituals help! – habits take more than six months to break, but with incorporating regular routines, like eating breakfast daily, and changing rituals, like taking a walk with friends instead of grabbing a drink, can help strengthen willpower and replace unhealthy habits with habits that support weight loss and weight maintenance. MealEnders is a great tool for helping you establish healthy habits and increase your willpower.*
Weight loss is not easy, and keeping that weight off when you do lose it can be even harder! Incorporating these seven tips into your personal plan for losing weight or keeping the weight off will likely result in success.
Dani Lee, Masters of Public Health Nutrition candidate at UC Berkeley