Anna, a 47 year-old professional woman is a pro at losing weight. She admits to trying every new fad diet on the market and has lost and regained approximately 125 pounds over 14 years. Anna’s problem is that she can’t keep the weight off. “Every time I lose the weight I not only gain the weight back but then some,” claims Anna. “Once I lost 24 pounds and gained back 30 pounds.”
Anna’s story doesn’t surprise James O. Hill, PhD, the executive director of the Anschultz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado, and the co-author of the book, State of Slim. From his Denver-based research facility he and his colleague, Holly Wyatt, MD, have studied their patients as well as looked for clues about weight maintenance in the National Weight Control Registry. The registry is a scientific database of thousands of successful weight loss “losers” across the country who, on average, maintained a 70-pound weight loss for six years.
“Through my research, I have uncovered that weight loss maintenance is much different than losing weight, and it involves a different set of skills and habits,” claims Hill. According to Hill, losing weight is a matter of consuming fewer calories than you need. If you eat less, you’ll weigh less. Period. But weight maintenance is a whole different situation. After years of analysis, they pinpointed several key factors that are very important for keeping the weight off.
According to Hill, there are metabolic adaptations when weight reduction occurs that actually promote the regain of the weight. One of which is what he calls the “energy gap.” Hill explains it like this: A person who weighs 220 pounds needs to consume 2,350 calories daily to maintain his/her weight. If that person loses 40 pounds, dropping to 180 pounds, this person will need to consume only 2,030 calories daily to maintain this smaller body mass. Thus, there is an energy (calorie) gap of 320 calories (2,350 – 2,030 = 320 calories) from the initial starting weight to the ending weight. In essence, to maintain this new level of weight, a person would need to either eat 320 calories less daily or expend 320 calories (or any combination of the two) in order to maintain the lower body mass.
Through his research, Hill has uncovered that the BEST way to close that gap, contrary to popular thought, is not to meticulously watch your diet to make sure that you eat 320 calories less daily, but rather, to move more. “Physical activity, not dieting, is the single best predictor to keeping the weight loss off during weight maintenance,” claims Hill.
Based on the data from the participants in the National Weight Control Registry and his patients, Hill discovered that those who successfully maintain their weight loss exercise for 60 minutes each day. They close the gap by moving more daily then they did when they were heavier.
Hill recommends individuals who want to maintain their weight loss, exercise for 70 minutes a day, six days a week, which over a week, equates to 60 minutes daily. Hill likes to give folks a day off weekly.
He suggests that weight loss maintainers do this in one of two ways:
1. Schedule two 35 minutes of daily planned exercise such as walking briskly in the morning and evening; OR
2. Get yourself a pedometer and walk 7,000 steps throughout your day PLUS schedule 30 minutes of a planned exercise, such as a brisk walking, at another time during the day.
Anna has decided that she is getting a pedometer and planning to visit her gym for 30 minutes every day. She hopes to count steps daily and avoid counting the pounds she typical gains back.
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