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Losing Weight vs. Maintaining Weight:  Different Strategies Required
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Losing Weight vs. Maintaining Weight: Different Strategies Required

 

It's hard enough to lose weight, but the battle to keep it off is even more difficult. While the statistics are sketchy, unfortunately many people who lose weight gain back at least some of it, if not all. A new study suggest that the strategies that work for losing weight may not work to prevent gaining the weight back.

Researchers at Penn State University surveyed more than 1,100 people who had lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off. Using the information gained, they were able to identify 36 weight-loss and weight-maintenance strategies that worked for at least 10% of the people surveyed.

What may change between the time a person meets their weight loss goal and begins the maintenance phase is their mindset. People who are trying to lose weight focus on a short term goal whereas people who maintain their weight loss must change that mindset and focus on the long-term.

The researchers then conducted a random phone survey of overweight people (defined as a BMI of 25 or higher) who had attempted to lose weight and keep it off with varying degrees of success. Losing weight was defined as dropping at least 10% of body weight, and weight maintenance was defined as keeping the weight off for at least one year. Approximately 11% of the people surveyed reported successfully losing weight and 21% reported maintaining that weight loss for at least one year.

Researchers then questioned the participants as to how often they used the 36 previously identified strategies: "often or very often" or "seldom or never." Fourteen of the 36 strategies were associated with successful weight loss or weight maintenance, but not both. The behaviors and skill sets that work for weight loss do not seem to work for weight maintenance.

Some of the strategies associated only with weight loss included:

  • Looking for information about weight loss and nutrition
  • Trying different forms of exercise
  • Planning meals ahead of time;
  • Avoiding skipped meals
  • Limiting sugar intake
  • Being part of a weight loss program
  • Thinking about feeling better when the weight is lost.

On the other hand, here are some of the strategies associated with maintaining weight loss:

  • Consuming plenty of low fat protein foods
  • Exercising consistently
  • Rewarding oneself for sticking to an eating plan
  • Reminding oneself of the need to control their weight

What may change between the time a person meets their weight loss goal and begins the maintenance phase is their mindset. People who are trying to lose weight focus on a short term goal whereas people who maintain their weight loss must change that mindset and focus on the long-term, i.e. a permanent change in their eating and exercise behaviors.

The researchers concluded that weight loss programs may need to address participants in a different way so that they are taught to pay more attention to the maintenance of weight over the long term.

The study was published online July 5, 2011 and appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

July 25, 2011






 


 
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