Despite the vast amount of money Americans spend trying to lose weight each year, permanent weight loss remains elusive for many people. Do you want to lose weight? The good news is you can use the following seven strategies to support your weight loss and contribute to long-term adherence to a particular diet. These suggestions come from Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, a pediatrician in Vista, California, a registered dietitian and the senior adviser for healthcare solutions for ACE.
1. Keep a food journal. Prior to starting a diet, keep a food log for 3 days, including 2 typical weekdays and 1 weekend day. This will help you identify baseline eating habits. Measure portions and read nutrition labels. Find an app or a food tracker (a good quality, free one is www.supertracker.usda.gov) to input the recorded information for a summary of calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Then, once on the diet, you can periodically check in and compare current eating habits with the diet’s suggested regimen.
2. Be realistic. What do you need to do to adhere to your new eating plan? If the changes feel too drastic, consider the most realistic opportunity for change.
3. Assess the home environment. To adhere to an eating plan, your home environment has to support the plan. Clean out foods that are inconsistent with the eating plan, and load up on healthier, nutrient-dense options. Try reducing quantities and using smaller plates and utensils.
4. Incorporate a do- able physical activity program. A “doable” program is likely not only to provide results but also to be something you actually enjoy and find relatively easy to incorporate into your daily routine. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150–250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity for improved health and to prevent weight gain (Donnelly et al. 2009). This is equivalent to about three 10-minute activity bouts per day.
5. Garner support. Social support is a very important predictor of weight loss success. Social circles also predict health behaviors. Reach out to family, friends and coworkers who are like-minded and are practicing healthy behaviors. If none are, look for a group at your fitness facility or in your community.
6. Self-monitor weight. By keeping tabs on your weight, you can see when regain begins and make the necessary adjustments to stop it. In fact, studies suggest this is a key behavior of people who lose weight and keep it off (Coughlin et al. 2013).
7. Check in with a weight loss coach monthly. The Weight Loss Maintenance Trial found that the individuals most likely to maintain their weight loss had monthly personal counseling sessions incorporating nutrition and physical activity for at least 2 years. The sessions were brief and took place by phone (Svetky et al. 2008). (To find an ACE Health Coach, see www.acefitness.org/acefit/locate-trainer/.).