Have you noticed that habits seem to come grouped in “sevens?” Why does it have to be seven? It’s hard enough to change one! That’s what got me started on this article.
I told you last month when I wrote about losing weight that I was going to talk about Seven Habits of Successful Weight Loss Maintainers or, more simply, “successful losers.” How do they do it?
I got the idea from a research article in The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health and Fitness Journal . . . Bridging the gap between science and practice. That’s me. I like to take the research and make it simple, or, I guess in this case, digestible.
Research. It sounds dry, boring, theoretical and sometimes, just plain “un-understandable.” I usually skip to the results to see what happened. When you get right down to it, that’s what research is all about. Re-search. To look again, to look back, to examine what happened and why, and to see how can we make it happen again. Research is really exciting, especially when it’s about life and why it happens, and let’s face it, most of the time it is.
It’s one of the early ways we discovered that exercise helps your heart. It happened through observation in London in 1949 when it was observed that drivers of double-decker buses had a higher incidence of heart attacks than the conductors/ticket-takers that walked up and down the stairs of the buses all day. What made the difference? The first factor seemed to be related to exercise. Of course, there was the stress of driving versus the lower stress of taking tickets and having the opportunity to interact with riders but that’s a topic for another day . . .
Back to the seven habits of those who not only lose weight but manage to keep it off over the long term. Did you know that there is a “National Weight Control Registry” (NWCR) that keeps track of such things? Well, there is. They have catalogued the how and the why of people who lose weight and keep it off.
Do you want to know how they did it? First I’ll give you the research then I’ll tell you how it relates to what I did and what you can do.
Seven Habits of Successful Weight Loss Maintainers
l. High levels of physical activity: more than one half of NWCR members expend more
than 2,000 kilocalories (kcals) per week. That equates to 200 minutes per week of
moderate-intensity exercise, or, 40-minutes, five days a week.
2. Limited television watching—less than 10 hours per week.
3. Low calorie, low fat diet, about 1400 kcals per day with less than 30% from fat.
4. Consistent diet: same foods regularly without “splurging” on week-ends, holidays,
or other special occasions. (Wait a minute!!!)
5. Breakfast consumption—daily breakfast eating which may help to curb hunger later
in the day.
6. High dietary restraint, i.e., high levels of control over their eating.
7. Self-monitoring—they weighed themselves at least weekly and tracked their daily
food intake. (Are they human!!!)
Let me translate that into what I have managed to do over the past thirty plus years. The first thing I did was to start eating breakfast on a regular basis. That, in my book, is the most important factor and the first habit to change. I’m not talking bacon and eggs here. I’m talking about a small, healthful, breakfast of a soft boiled egg, a slice of toast, an orange and a cup of coffee, for example.
The next habit to adopt is exercise–activity, moving around more. I exercise for an hour, four to five times a week but it took me awhile to make that change.
I have to confess, I do splurge on special occasions, sometimes not so special occasions, and I love chocolate and I drink wine. I try to keep my weight within about a five pound range. It’s easier to lose five pounds than ten, twenty, or more if you let it get away from you—I’ve done that more than once.
You get the idea. Those who do it well may have all seven habits but I’ll bet like me, they started with one or two and you can too. I’ll summarize the rest of mine in a nutshell.
Besides being a regular breakfast eater and exerciser, I eat snacks between meals. It keeps my blood sugar up and keeps me from getting overly hungry. I walk a lot to get places that aren’t too far away and I make it part of my day, such as walking to the library or grocery store. I love the freedom of being able to do that . . . it’s a reward in itself.
If you look into your own habits, you can do your own research. Find the things that work for you, reinforce them, and you’ll be on your way to being a successful loser, one habit at a time.
Source: 1,2 The National Weight Control Registry: A Study of “Successful Losers” by J.Graham Thomas, PhD; Dale S. Bond, PhD;
James O. Hill, PhD; and Rena R. Wing, PhD. ACSM Health and Fitness Journal, March/April 2011, Vol 15 #2
Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM