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To Lose Weight, Hang With the Winners

scalesWhen I decided it was time to lose weight, I thought first of how I had quit drinking alcohol. I thought about hanging with the winners.

As I pulled out onto the Atlanta Highway on Labor Day in 2002 while driving to the treatment center for the first time, I said out loud, “Do whatever they tell you to do, Ed.” After two weeks of desperately trying to detox from more than two decades of daily alcohol drinking by myself, I’d given up and was on my way to get help. I had a masters degree in psychology and a doctorate in counseling, and I knew absolutely nothing about how to quit drinking alcohol. For the previous twenty years, I’d awakened each morning with a desire to stop drinking alcohol. Every day when I arrived home from work, I’d fill a glass with ice, vodka, and a splash of water and start again. Clearly, I had no idea how to stop drinking. The people at the treatment center were experts and I made a commitment as I drove there to get myself out of the way and follow their directions.

Without question, that was the best set of directions I’ve ever given myself.

After “graduating” from the treatment center, I sought out recovering alcoholics who had years of successful sobriety. When I heard the same thing over and over from sobriety winners, I did what they said to do. At this writing, I’m about to celebrate thirteen years of sobriety, and I’m still doing what the winners do.

I also hang with the winners in losing and maintaining weight loss.  Lots of people lose weight from time to time. A tiny fraction maintain the loss. I have no interest in losing the weight only to have it pile right back on. The problem with hanging with the weight loss winners is that there are so few of them in our immediate vicinity.

That void of winners has been filled since 1993 by Rena R. Wing and James O. Hill. The two researchers began the National Weight Control Registry in 1993. Participants in the study have lost a minimum of thirty pounds and have kept the weight off for more than a year. The participants far exceed the minimum. As of now, the researchers report “Registry members have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off for [at least] 5.5 years.”

So what commonalities have the researchers found among the weight loss winners?
Here are a few:

  • There is greater variability among the winners in the dieting pattern used to initially lose weight than there is in maintaining the weight loss.
  • 90% of the winners have a diet that is low in fat.
  • 10% of the participants maintain weight loss on a low carbohydrate diet.
  • 90% of the winners exercise for an hour a day on average.
  • 75% of the winners weigh themselves at least once a week
  • 90% of the winners self-monitored food intake (e.g. counted calories.)
  • Winners limited variety in all food groups.
  • Weight loss maintenance gets easier over time. Once the winners maintained a weight loss for 2-5 years, the chances of longer-term success greatly increases.

While there are a zillion books and theories out there on losing weight, I’ll stick with the winners. The winners count calories, eat a low-fat diet, and exercise an hour a day.

I think I’ll keep sticking with the winners.

2 comments

  1. Leigh Bartlett

    Hi Ed! With the weight control registry, do you interact with fellow members? How does that work? When you say that you hang with the winners, how do you get in touch with them? Thanks for your help with my understanding 🙂

    1. ewyrick

      Thanks for the message. Regarding the weight control registry, the answer is no. As a subject of the study, I submitted medical records first, then answer an annual survey and occasional additional surveys. Finding fellow travelers for weight issues is harder than it is for alcohol or drugs. I know people who have been happy with Weight Watchers meetings, but that cost money. For me, I happened to know some people who lost weight, so I stay in touch with them. I’d say just stay aware of people’s stories and when you find somebody who you’d like to emulate, just ask if you can keep in touch with them. Thanks, again for the message.

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