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January 2, 2014 | 3 minute read

Study: Activity and Weigh-Ins Help Weight Loss Stick

For many dieters, it’s not the losing weight that’s the hardest part, it’s the keeping it off. Now, just in time for those New Year resolutions, a new study finds that exercise and weighing yourself are among the key behavior strategies that may help sustain that weight loss for at least a decade.StripedSocksScale

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, draws from a select — but successful — group who were part of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) for 10 years. To enroll in the NWCR, you had to have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for over a year.

The findings are important because getting to and staying a healthy weight is one of the most important ways to reduce cancer risk. Overweight and obesity is a cause of seven cancers, along with increasing risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

For the study, almost 3,000 people answered questions about what weight-related behaviors they were doing one year after they enrolled in the NWCR. They reported their weight regularly throughout the decade.

When these NWCR participants first enrolled, they had lost on average 69 pounds from their maximum weight. At the five and ten year mark they had kept most of that weight off: 52 pounds and 51 pounds on average at 5 and 10 years respectively.

At ten years, an estimated 87 percent of the men and women had maintained a weight loss of at least 10% of their maximum weight.

Those who regained the least amount of weight after ten years reported weighing themselves several times a week and doing plenty of physical activity, such as walking. (Other papers have shown that walking is the most common form of physical activity in the NWCR, says J. Graham Thomas, PhD, one of the study’s authors.) They also reported eating relatively few calories from fat and restricting the amount and types of foods they consumed.

This study shows, says Thomas, an Assistant Professor at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University: “Weight loss maintenance is possible over an extended period, and that it requires persistent adherence to a few key health behaviors, which are unfortunately largely opposed by our current food environment and prevailing Western lifestyles.”

As the authors note, the men and women enrolled in the NWCR joined after successfully losing weight loss and the data is self-reported. And almost half of the participants did not complete follow-ups questionnaires in years six through ten, so researchers used a model to reach their estimates.

But this study does show what previous research consistently finds, healthy behavior change can lead to healthier habits. And that can lead to weight loss that sticks, along with habits that can reduce cancer risk independent of weight.

If you are looking to lose weight or just develop healthier habits, our 12-week online weight-loss program starts January 13. You can join our New American Plate Challenge here.

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