Researchers at Brown Medical School and the University of Colorado have established the National Weight Control Registry to follow people who have successfully lost 30 pounds or more and have kept it off for long periods of time. These people’s approaches are diverse and inspiring. Given the obesity epidemic among adults and children in the US, with an associated rise in diabetes and health care costs, the subject is important for all of us. Here are some salient findings from people who joined the registry:
*Weight losses range from 30 to 300 pounds.
*Duration of successful loss: 1-66 yrs.
*Some lost weight rapidly, others very slowly – over as many as 14 years.
*55% lost weight with the help of a program or support group.
*98% modified their food intake
*94% increased physical activity, most frequently by walking.
*78% eat breakfast every day
*75% weigh themselves at least once a week
*62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week
*90% exercise about 1 hour a day
Mayo Clinic on Weight Loss: Here are some ideas from the Mayo Clinic Diet Book, which is sensible and pays attention to motivation as well as food and exercise. Permanent weight loss takes time and effort, and is a lifelong commitment. Address the other stresses in your life, so that you can focus on changing your habits. Find your inner motivation – looking better, or getting healthier. Pick people to support you in positive ways. Set realistic goals, such as losing 1-2 pounds a week, or walking at least 30 minutes a day. Enjoy healthier food – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nut butters, low-fat dairy products. Cut back on sugars, and limit meat consumption. Stay physically active. Work out a way to gradually change the habits and attitudes that have sabotaged your past efforts.
Childhood Obesity: 20% of children are now overweight or obese, mainly due to lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating patterns. Michelle Obama has put forth an action plan – “Let’s Move” to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. Her plan includes getting parents more informed about nutrition and exercise, improving the quality of food in schools, making healthy foods more accessible in poor neighborhoods, and focusing on physical education. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 not watch any TV, and those older than 2 watch no more than 1-2 hours a day of quality programming. Children who consistently watch more TV and computer screens – including computer games - are more likely to be overweight. Here are some other tips for parents to keep their children healthy and slim: don’t drink soda, and don’t have it at home. Keep kid-friendly snacks in the house: fruit, nuts, low fat yogurt, nut butters, whole grain bread and pre-cut vegetables. Avoid storing cakes, chips, full-fat cheese, white crackers and most lunch-meats. Make healthier versions of favorite recipes, like cookies and pizza. Be active together – get everyone out for a bike ride or hike. Don’t make it about losing weight; make it about being healthy. Be a good example!
Sleep: getting too little sleep adds to weight gain in children and adults. The relationship in children is strongest, and may be related to disrupted levels of the hormones – gherlin and leptin – that regulate hunger. Sleep deficits also elevate levels of cortisol from the adrenal glands, raising blood sugar levels. Catching up on lost sleep on weekends is not as effective as maintaining a consistent pattern of sleep. If you are working on weight control, regular and adequate sleep will help you.
Some Extra Exercise Ideas: Get a pedometer in order to measure your steps every day, and slowly increase your walking. I recommend a Digi-walker SW - 200, available on-line. Put bricks under your desk, so that the top is at elbow height. You then have a standing desk – used by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson among other enlightenment thinkers. Standing will increase your strength as you work on your computer, or pay bills, or write your poems. Put a stationary bike or other exercise equipment in front of your television, and pedal as you watch your favorite programs. You can easily get to that hour a day recommended by the people who successfully lost weight. Get an exercise pal – who could be a dog.
Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH back issues on this blog