Five habits of people who lose weight and keep it off

Why is it that some of us lose weight and then put it back on again, while others manage to keep the kilos off?

To try and solve the weight-loss mystery, US researchers began a register of more than 5000 people trying to lose weight to learn what makes some successful and not others. Called the National Weight Control Registry, it studies the lifestyle habits of people who’ve lost about 13 kilos or more and have mostly kept the weight off for at least five years. The registry’s research suggests that those who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off share the following five habits.

1. They eat less fat 

Although many people on the registry reported being on low-fat diets, it’s important to be clear what ‘low-fat’ eating means. Dr Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Newcastle, says it doesn’t mean eating no fat – it means your diet should focus on selecting lean meat, poultry or fish, using low-fat and reduced-fat dairy products, avoiding fast food and takeaways, using low-fat cooking techniques and eating at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables or salad every day.


'Low-fat eating' doesn't mean eating no fat.

2. They eat breakfast

Almost 80 per cent of the registry’s successful participants reported eating breakfast every day. Although it’s tempting to cut kilojoules by skipping breakfast, dietitians say this can backfire because you may then snack on high-kilojoule foods when you feel hungry. A healthy breakfast prevents the urge to graze later in the morning and can stop your metabolism from slowing down to conserve kilojoules after your overnight ‘fast’. If there’s no time to eat breakfast in the morning rush, have healthy food handy for when your hunger kicks in.
Strategies weight loss woman running

3. They don't binge on weekends

People who are successful at losing weight are able to moderate their eating habits on weekends and holidays as well as weekdays. The registry found that people who eat consistently through the week are more likely to keep weight off compared to those who only watch what they eat on weekdays. Research suggests overindulging at weekends can result in up to four kilos of weight gain in a year.

People who eat consistently through the week are more likely to keep weight off.

4. They exercise regularly

Around 90 per cent of people on the registry average an hour of exercise most days of the week. Walking was the most common form of physical activity followed by resistance training. Most report having more energy and better moods because of the physical activity they do and these are both powerful motivators to keep exercising.

5. They watch less TV

Most participants watched less than 10 hours of television a week. Compare this to the national average in Australia where people watch around 20 to 24 hours a week. It’s also a good idea to monitor your sitting time. Work out how many hours of the day you’ve spent sitting and try and reduce this by spending more time moving around.


The key to losing weight is not simply a quick-fix solution – it requires ongoing lifestyle change, including eating less fat, exercising regularly, not binging, eating breakfast and limiting time spent sitting down. And if it’s worked for 5000 people there is a good chance it will work for you!

For further information, visit the National Weight Control Registry

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