Have you taken the annual New Year's plunge into the world of weight loss? Have you done this before, only to regain your original weight -- and more?
It's time to break your losing cycle.
At last year's annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association, obesity researcher John Foreyt, Ph.D., discussed winning at the losing game.
Here are the three greatest predictors of success.
1. Self monitoring
Keep good records. Keep food records. Keep exercise records. Keep weight records.
It's much easier to shape good behavior and reshape bad habits when you know exactly what you're doing.
Granted, this is a lot of work. But the time invested pays off in self-knowledge and sense of achievement.
2. Long treatment
Even mildly obese people are more successful when they plan to work at weight loss for at least 40 weeks. Forty weeks!
This is an eternity for a generation raised on the notion that 10 pounds per week weight loss is possible and even desirable.
But the new U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest that 1/2 to 1 pound per week is ideal.
When you do it more slowly, you have time to develop a well-balanced eating plan. You don't slow your metabolism. You eliminate the starve-binge cycle. You provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to be healthy and lean, as well as thinner. You include an occasional sweet treat, and eat entrees besides tuna and turkey. And best of all, you develop habits and food preferences to last a lifetime.
3. Physical activity
Although it is possible to lose weight rapidly without an exercise program, regular physical activity is the No. 1 predictor of success for maintaining weight loss.
Physical activity burns calories, keeps metabolism high, increases muscle mass and keeps you feeling buoyant and healthy so you keep eating right.
All movement counts. Walking to do errands instead of riding, using stairs instead of elevators, doing chores instead of sending the kids, and almost anything instead of watching TV. Planned exercise can be as simple as walking, or as complicated as learning a new sport.
The New Year has begun. Get a move on!
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.