Tracking food intake, healthy eating and psychological coping are the keys to maintaining successful weight loss, research finds.
People who successfully lose 50 pounds in weight and manage to maintain it tend to:
- Keep a note of what they eat: tracking weight is also important for weight loss.
- Choose healthy food: many foods are healthy, but it is important to stick to foods that you like to maintain weight loss.
- Use positive self-talk: this can involve thinking about past successes to motivate behaviour.
The longer people maintained these habits, the more ingrained and easier they became, researchers found.
Professor Suzanne Phelan, the study’s first author, said:
“People who maintained their successful weight loss the longest reported greater frequency and repetition in healthy eating choices.
Healthier choices also became more automatic the longer people continued to make those choices.
These findings are encouraging for those working at weight loss maintenance.
Over time, weight loss maintenance may become easier, requiring less intentional effort.”
The results come from a study of 4,786 formerly obese people who had maintained their weight loss of 50 pounds, on average, for at least three years.
They were all members of WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers.
They were compared to a group of 528 obese people whose weight had not changed.
The results revealed that the most effective strategy was, unsurprisingly, eating right.
However, self-monitoring was almost as powerful, with psychological strategies also beneficial.
People who used these strategies also found it easier to avoid food cravings.
Professor Phelan said:
“Successful weight loss is associated with a variety of health benefits.
The improved quality of life observed among the successful weight losers in this study may serve as an important motivator for people working at long-term weight management.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Obesity (Phelan et al., 2020).