Secrets to Successful Weight Loss

Featured Article, News and Advice, Weight Loss
on October 18, 2011

You know (at least I’m sincerely hoping you do) that what you eat and how much you move has a good deal to do with losing weight … or not. But contrary to what many believe, they’re not the ONLY things that affect what’s on the scale. Other things, some more obvious than others, can be particularly powerful aids in the quest to drop those unwanted pounds. Here are six important ones.

Check your head. Do you believe you can eat healthier and get active? That’s a big part of the battle. A positive mindset is crucial to overcoming the very real challenge of converting unhealthy behaviors to healthy ones. I truly believe that the reason I was finally able to drop the weight for good after so many failed attempts was that I discovered the positive power of exercise. I was able to see myself setting goals—to make it to a Jazzercise class or run a mile—and reach them. And little by little, I started to believe in my own power to change. The rest is, as they say, history!

Take it easy. You don’t need another study to tell you that crash diets don’t work, extremely low-calorie diets are unrealistic and most people who go on fad diets typically gain back all the weight. Chances are that, like me, you’ve been there. Instead of falling for the big promise yet again, limit your weight loss to a pound or two a week—and make gradual, not drastic, changes.

Track it. You’ve heard it before, but keeping a food diary is a cornerstone of programs like Weight Watchers for a reason: According to a recent study, journaling doubles the amount of weight people lose. Be honest to the crumb: record every swipe of frosting, every nibble of leftover, and make sure you measure amounts so you have a realistic view of portions. Seeing in black and white what you’re really eating can be a huge wakeup call.

RELATED: What's the best diet plan?

See a pro. A registered dietitian or personal trainer can make a world of difference in your weight-loss efforts. Can’t afford a pro? No problem: A University of Tennessee study found that even people who attended support groups lost more weight than those who didn’t.

Tune out. Now, I love to snuggle up with the remote when the day is done. But rarely do I indulge in a multi-hour TV-watching session. And good thing: The National Weight Control Registry (a group of people who’ve successfully kept off a minimum of 30 pounds for at least 1 year—one of whom is me) reports that their biggest weight-loss successes watch TV 10 hours or less per week. Research has also found that people who watch the tube more than two hours a day have a significantly higher body mass index (BMI) than those who watch less than one hour daily.

Get your z’s. It’s true. Sleep CAN affect your weight. Researchers at the University of Chicago and Stanford University have found that people who sleep the recommended eight hours a night tend to have a healthy BMI, while those who get only four or five hours of shut-eye experience significant drops in the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin, and spikes in the hunger-triggering hormone ghrelin.