What the National Weight Control Registry Can Teach You

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10 behaviors

A review study directed by researchers at UCLA and published in the American Psychologist journal found that the vast majority of diets do not work. In most cases, the researchers discovered that people who attempt to diet not only do not lose much weight but very few keep the weight off. Even worse, many of the people who lost weight eventually gained back more weight than they had lost initially.

Those are depressing findings aren’t they? What can you do to make yourself be one of the ones who succeeds at weight loss and at weight maintenance?

The truth is that there is no one path to successful weight loss. However, there are behaviors that have been proven to help you lose weight and if you continue those behaviors after you reach your goal weight, you can maintain your weight loss.

As many of you interested in weight loss know, the National Weight Control Registry tracks thousands of people who have successfully lost and maintained weight. The criteria for membership is having lost at least 30 pounds and having maintained it for at least one year. Every year they send members a survey that asks about eating, exercise, and lifestyle behaviors. I’ve filled out several of those surveys because I am a member of the registry.

Looking at what worked for other people is a valuable tool, especially if those people have achieved long term success. This is especially important when you think about our tendency to fall all over ourselves praising celebrities like Valerie Bertinelli or Kristie Alley who lost weight using popular diet programs but quickly gained the weight back.

You need to emulate real people who have found what works.

So, what do those real people do that works? I’ve put together a list of 10 behaviors that successful losers use to lose and maintain weight. I hope it will help you formulate a diet plan that can help you through your own personal journey.

10 Weight Loss Behaviors to Copy

1. Make a Change in Their Diet

If your eating habits were causing you to gain weight, it makes sense that changing them is important. You need to do things differently to lose weight rather it is eating healthier, reducing portions, or doing a 180 from where you are today.

2. Eat Breakfast

Most dieters who successfully lost and maintained weight eat breakfast every morning. You don’t have to eat a lot, but eating something before your lunch meal can make a difference.

3. Exercise Consistently

Exercise doesn’t cause weight loss all by itself, but it is a valuable tool in the weight loss process. Not only does it burn calories and burn muscle, but exercising is good for you mentally.

4. Watch Little Television

The National Weight Control Registry participants watch less than 10 hours of television a week, on average. It makes sense that the more active you are the less time you have to sit around watching television. Personally, I definitely watch less than 10 hours of television a week. I usually average about 2 to 3 hours each week.

5. Weigh At Least Once a Week

Weighing at least once a week helps you stay accountable and puts you in good company. Almost 80 percent of the weight loss registry members weigh at least one time a week. I am a fan of daily weigh-ins.

6. Don’t Fall for Fads

Fad diets are designed for failure. They just are. If you want to lose weight and keep it off avoid jumping on the fad bandwagon whether it be a celery diet, a cleansing diet, or any other kind of diet your logical mind tells you is a fad.

7. Live a Balanced Life

Living a balanced life helps you keep things in perspective. Getting so caught up in the weight loss process that you avoid social get togethers, talk only about weight loss, or exercise to the extreme will do you no good in the long run.

8. Have a Support System

You do not have to join a weight loss group, but people who have a good support system tend to be more successful than people who try to go it completely alone

9. Catch Slip-Ups Before They Get Serious

It’s important to catch your slip-ups such as gaining a few pounds or skipping your exercise for no reason before they get serious. It’s a lot easier to lose 3 to 5 pounds you’ve put back on than 10 to 15 pounds.

10. Always Stay Diligent

It may seem tiring, but staying diligent is necessary for successful weight loss and maintenance. It is very easy to slip back into old habits, let the pounds creep up, and spiral out of control.

I hope this list helps you in your journey. I’d love for you to share it with your friends, on Facebook, Pinterest, or any other place you can think of. Diane


  1. Mandy Cat says

    Further to No. 9 about catching slip ups, I read a good tip about having an emergency plan. First we have to define what constitutes an emergency. It can be a certain number on the scale or a particular piece of clothing no longer fitting. Then we define what the action plan will be. My emergency is a particular weight (or even uncomfortably close to it.) The plan is a very specific food list that I stick to until I’m back in my safety zone. I guess the key here is to plan ahead and plan in detail, not just wait for “Hey, I’m feeling a little bloated; better get a grip, sweetie.”

    Of course, if I start to find myself in a state of emergency more often than not, something is wrong and other steps need to be taken.

  2. Janis says

    I wonder sometimes whether people kept their weight loss private or advertised their efforts. It always strikes me how pretty much every single person I can think of online who successfully managed to keep off a significant amount of weight did so before getting online. The blog now about maintenance, but they lost the weight by themselves, and kept it fairly private.

    Seriously — everyone I can think of is like that, all of the successful decade-or-more maintainers of extremely impressive weight loss. They lost privately, and they maintain publicly. I’m not at all sure that blogging while losing or doing it very publicly is a good idea. “Accountability” be damned, it just doesn’t seem to work. It seems to me that making a big, possibly scary change in one’s life should be done in peace and quiet and without inviting commentary from everybody on the planet.

  3. L says

    This is a wonderful list, Diane, and so true. I lost 75 lbs probably 18 yrs ago now (didn’t record the date when I started, because I was sure of two things: 1. I would never be able to lose that much, and 2. it wouldn’t stay lost). Guess I didn’t know so much after all. :) Another 35 lost 3 yrs ago. I have more to lose, but have kept this weight off by using almost all of these strategies. They have become habit for me. The one I need to give more thought to changing is my TV viewing. I need to work on that one, for sure. I’m definitely sharing this on FB. Thanks for bringing another great blog to those of us still a lil shy of maintenance.

  4. Pam says

    I knew diligence was oh so important to maintenance, and then I slipped. I knew that a small slip would make it easier to keep slipping, and to make bigger and longer-lasting slips–I was right. I follow most of the other “ten commandments,” (except for TV–I watch way too much!), but diligence is proving to be the toughest for me. With every day, there’s new hope….

  5. says

    This is a reasonable list! The biggest reason I think people gain the weight back is they stop doing what led to their losing weight in the first place. For me, I kept living the same way that led to my weight loss in the first place. Low fat, portion control, and consistent exercise.


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