By Linda Melone
Achieving a healthy weight takes more than the initial weight loss: Keeping it off for good presents an even greater challenge.
The National Weight Control Registry tracked and studied 10,000 people who lost a considerable amount of weight (30 to 300 pounds) and successfully kept it off. Some of the secrets to their success were:
- 78% ate breakfast daily. Although the association between breakfast and weight loss has been disputed, physician nutrition specialist Adrienne Youdim, MD, FACP, points out that “often when you skip meals, you’re more likely to overcompensate for it later in the day. You want to eat a high-protein breakfast that curbs your appetite.”
- 75% weighed themselves at least once a week. When you weigh yourself regularly you’re able to see small changes in weight, says Youdim. However, she adds, “I don’t recommend daily weighing because of changes in sodium and other issues that can cause fluctuations.”
- 90% exercised, on average, about one hour per day. “Regular exercise is not a huge determinant for weight loss,” says Youdim, “but it’s important for weight maintenance.”
Here are four people who have lost significant amounts of weight—and kept it off for at least two years.
Losing weight and gaining it back time after time made Los Angeles resident David Garcia feel he was destined to be overweight his whole life.
At his heaviest, Garcia clocked in at 402 pounds. “I tried various ways to lose weight and had some success, but it always came back,” he says.
That changed when Garcia had an opportunity to meet fitness guru Richard Simmons through Garcia’s work behind the scenes of a talk show. “Through Richard’s guidance, journaling my food and being held accountable to a world-famous fitness icon, it finally worked for me,” Garcia says.
After over a year of exercising and getting control of his food intake, Garcia lost 160 pounds.
“I was terrified of regaining the weight and even had recurring nightmares where I’d wake up and all the weight would be back,” he says. “I knew it would be a lifelong endeavor and most terribly daunting. I also knew if I became complacent the weight was going to come back.”
Watching the needle on the scale go down is strong motivation while you’re in the process of losing weight. The problem begins when you no longer have that once you reach your goal.
“You need to embrace the idea that maintenance is a win,” Garcia notes. “Ultimately, I’m working just as hard to keep off the weight as it took to lose it.”
Garcia also credits his weight loss maintenance to his passion for stair climbing. He competes nationally in stair-climbing races, including skyscraper challenges that raise money for various charities and causes.
Like Garcia, Dale Rule of Canus, Washington, battled obesity for most of his life.
“I was over 300 pounds for 10 years with a high of 363 pounds in December of 2009 at age 37,” he recalls. When a coworker snapped a photograph of him, Rule realized just how much weight he had gained. “I looked at it and said to my wife, ‘Man, I am huge!’”
When his doctor refused to perform gastric bypass, saying he was “too healthy,” Rule knew that it was up to him. He took up walking: His first time out it took 41 minutes to walk a mile.
“I thought I was going to die,” Rule says. But he was determined.
The next day he walked the same path and then did the same routine at night. Rule also started journaling his food intake.
The combination of walking and journaling paid off; in 12 months Rule lost 140 pounds.
Today Rule walks a minimum of three miles each day, but more often five and sometimes up to 15 miles. He says, “The hardest part is getting up early.”
At over six feet tall, Cori Magnotta of Portland, Connecticut, never considered herself “the skinny type.”
But when Magnotta went up to 265 pounds after her son was born, she realized it was time to do something about her weight: “I had postpartum depression and was really unmotivated.”
Finding a workout that would produce results and still be fun enough for Magnotta to stick with it was no small task. Finally, she came across “hula hooping” during a Google search.
Eight months of regular hula hooping later, she had lost 75 pounds.
Now a hooping instructor, Magnotta still hula hoops for 30 minutes a day in between caring for her two children. “When I’m not teaching a class, I’ll do it between commercials while watching TV,” she says.
Although her weight fluctuates between five and ten pounds, Magnotta stays motivated by knowing people look up to her for inspiration. “You can’t hula hoop and not smile,” she adds.
Teri Moore of Mission Viejo, California, reached for food to find emotional comfort after suffering several personal losses. Gradually she packed on a total of 40 pounds before realizing it was time to take control.
Even before then, Moore knew her eating habits needed improvement. “I grew up with a horrible diet,” she says, referring to breakfasts of pastries and sweets.
Her weight yo-yoed through various attempts to shed pounds but Moore finally found a balance that enabled her to lose 60 pounds for good through going to the gym and cutting back on portions and calories.
“I’m losing inches but it’s different now and my goals have more to do with health and flexibility,” Moore says. “I’m not watching the scale. I’m no longer in a rush. It’s a different focus but I’m still losing.”
Moore strives to stay away from sugar, eats mostly chicken and turkey for dinner and eats small meals of between 200 and 300 calories each. Trail mix, apples and an occasional low-fat pudding keep her sweet tooth at bay. In addition, she works out with weights and does cardio four to five days a week, including intervals.