In a new study, researchers found that if you want to lose weight and keep it off, building healthy dietary, self-monitoring and psychological coping strategies may be the keys to success.
They found that some of the most effective behaviors and psychological strategies reported by those maintaining their weight loss included choosing healthy food, tracking what you eat and using positive self-talk.
The research was conducted by a team at California Polytechnic State University.
The study surveyed almost 5,000 members of WW (formerly Weight Watchers) who reported losing an average of about 50 pounds and kept it off for more than three years, to look at their weight management strategies.
Researchers compared this group to a control group of more than 500 people with obesity and who reported not gaining or losing more than five pounds for a period of greater than five years.
The team examined 54 behaviors related to weight management.
Compared to the group of weight-stable individuals, the group of weight loss maintainers reported more frequent use of strategies like setting daily food intake goals, recording what was eaten each day, measuring foods, thinking about past successes, and remaining positive in the face of weight regain.
The researchers also found that these eating and thinking behaviors became easier and more ingrained over time in the group of those maintaining their weight loss.
The team says people who maintained their successful weight loss the longest reported greater frequency and repetition in healthy eating choices.
Healthier choices also became more automatic the longer people continued to make those choices.
These findings are encouraging for those working at weight loss maintenance. Over time, weight loss maintenance may become easier, requiring less intentional effort.
The nation’s principal health statistics agency estimates that nearly two out of five (40%) adults in the U.S. have obesity and another one in three (32%) have overweight.
Obesity increases the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, among other health conditions.
One author of the study is Suzanne Phelan, a kinesiology and public health professor.
The study is published in Obesity.
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