Many of our bariatric weight loss surgery patients are always asking us what the keys are to keeping the weight off after surgery and how to prevent weight regain. If you are a bariatric surgery patient, hopefully you’ve learned by now that surgery is only a tool and that the key to being successful is adopting a healthier lifestyle. One study that looks at the keys to long-term successful weight loss is from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). NWCR is the largest prospective (ongoing) study in the U.S. that is looking at key characteristics in people who have not only achieved weight loss, but have also kept it off! It was established in 1994 by Rena Wing, Ph.D from Brown Medical School, and James O. Hill, Ph.D. from the University of Colorado and has been tracking over 10,000 people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. Registry members have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off 5.5 years. Although this study doesn’t look specifically at habits in bariatric weight loss surgery patients, it still provides great insight into successful weight loss. According to the NWCR, success boils down to these five key permanent lifestyle changes:
- Participate in regular physical activity. Successful participants in the NWCR exercised on average, 1 hour per day and watched less than 10hrs of television per week.
- Consume a low fat, reduced calorie diet. Reducing the fat in your diet can help facilitate a lower calorie intake and at the end of the day weight loss comes down to taking in less calories than your body needs in order to produce a calorie deficit.
- Follow a consistent eating pattern. Avoid skipping meals which can lead to overeating at meal time. Try to space meals 5-6 hours apart. Be aware of grazing (eating more than six times per day) which can lead to taking in more calories by the end of the day than your body needs. Studies have shown that the best eating pattern is consuming three meals per day and one or two small, portion controlled snacks to curb your hunger levels between meals.
- Eat breakfast! Breakfast gets you jump-started for the day and sets the tone for the rest of the day. Breakfast eaters tend to eat less later on throughout the day.
- Monitor your habits with food, exercise and weight logs. Weigh and record your weight at least once per week. In addition, write down everything you eat and your activity levels to become more aware of your habits and to track your progress.