For Weight Control, There\’s Only One Formula

By Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN
NABBW’s Healthy Heart Lifestyle Expert

South Beach to Sonoma, eat every 3 hours or exercise for just 8 minutes: what\’s the best advice for a lifetime of weight control?

You can\’t fit into your favorite pair of jeans and stepping on the scale is simply out of the question for fear of the psychological ramifications. It\’s time to take control of the situation and lose weight. Should you run to Barnes and Nobles to buy the latest diet book to solve your never-ending battle of the bulge?

Before I answer this question, let\’s start with some basics regarding the science of weight loss. Weight gain is the result of eating more calories than you burn, over an extended period of time. To lose weight, you need to create a “caloric deficit” meaning you are eating less food (calories) than your body requires to fuel itself for the day. For example, if your body requires 2500 calories a day to maintain your present body weight and you eat just 2000 calories a day for one week, you will have created a “calorie deficit” of 3500 calories and will lose one pound. If you eat 2000 calories a day and also burn an extra 500 calories a day from a daily “spin” class, then you will have created a “calorie deficit” of 7000 calories or a 2 pound weight loss (there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat) in one week.

So should you go buy a diet book or sign up for a commercial weight loss program? Rather than try for a short-term fix to a long-term problem, I always recommend that my patients learn the weight loss secrets of success from the true experts at weight loss, those people that have joined the “National Weight Control Registry.” The National Weight Control Registry is a group of individuals who have done the impossible…lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off! “Do what they did,” is my advice.

What exactly is the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR)? The NWCR is a scientific investigation tracking over 5,000 individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year (http://www.nwcr.ws). So how did they lose weight and keep it off? Four behavioral characteristics common to most of the successful losers were recorded:

  • Use a combination of diet plus exercise to lose weight. Registrants used a variety of methods to lose weight (50% on formal diets, 50% on their own), with both groups using a combination of diet with exercise for their initial weight loss. What they all had in common, however, was their similar behavioral weight loss strategies for maintaining the weight loss: they eat a low-calorie, higher-carbohydrate, and lower-fat (25%) diet. They also eat healthfully consistently throughout the entire week rather than just dieting during weekdays.
  • Eat breakfast. Almost 80% of registrants eat breakfast daily.
  • Use frequent self-monitoring techniques to keep yourself on track: weigh yourself at least once per week and keep a food and exercise diary for example.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise! The common thread running through all of the successful weight loss maintainers is their high level of physical activity, including moving around more in everyday life and getting in planned exercise sessions. (Registrants average 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity daily, with walking being the most popular form of physical activity.)

The take away message from the masters of weight control is that for a lifetime of weight management, you need to change your behavior pattern of eating and exercise (or lack thereof). There is no magic weight loss bullet that you can buy at the store. A lifetime of weight control involves focusing day-in and day-out on eating a healthy low-calorie, moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-fat diet, and combining that way of eating with a highly active lifestyle.

About the author:

©2011, Dr. Janet Brill Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN is author of the new book, “Prevent a Second Heart Attack, 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease” (Random House/Crown Publishing; 2011; $15.00) and “Cholesterol Down: 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in 4 Weeks Without Prescription Drugs” (Random House/Crown Publishing; 2006; $13.95). Dr. Brill is a leading diet and nutrition author, educator and practitioner. She consults for the health and fitness industry specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention. She is the nutrition expert for the national television show, The Balancing Act. For more info on her books, please visit: www.DrJanet.com or www.PreventaSecondHeartAttack.com

Dr. Janet is a nationally recognized expert in the field of health, wellness and cardiovascular disease prevention and is frequently sought after by the media as a trusted source of nutrition and fitness information. Janet holds master’s degrees in both nutrition and exercise physiology and a doctorate in exercise physiology. She is a registered dietitian and certified by the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and Wellcoaches, Inc.