The most successful losers are the real winners

At this time of year, as the holidays start it is increasingly difficult to maintain healthy dietary and fitness goals. The office parties and the trays of goodies keep showing up and sometimes wear down even the most dedicated dieter. So what are the common characteristics of those who stay steady with their fitness and health goals and maybe even advance their overall fitness level even through the holidays?

The National Weight Control Registry tracks more than 10,000 people over the age of 18 who have shed 30 pounds of body weight and kept it off for more than a year. All except for a very few changed their dietary habits and almost all of them increased their physical activity. This shouldn’t be startling news.

A large percent of these successful weight loss managers also eat breakfast every day. As well, they weigh themselves on average once a week. I agree that once a week is fine. If you weigh yourself every day and fret about minor fluctuations in weight, you tend to self-sabotage.

Weight goes up and down according to the time of day, whether you had a salty food, how much water you have been drinking, how much you sweat and a whole host of other factors.

Weighing once a week at the same time of day under the same conditions (using the same weigh scale in the same place and wearing the same clothes) is a scientific approach — compulsively weighing every day or multiple times a day is an emotional approach that will frustrate and hamper your progress and your commitment.

The successful fitness and health trackers statistically watch less than 10 hours of TV a week and over 90 percent of them exercise at least an hour every day.

Experts agree that it is more difficult six months on a diet and exercise program, and after that without continued vigilance, the pounds usually come creeping back on. The statistics show however, that it is rare to gain back all the weight.

For example, a 2007 review of 80 diet studies indicated that of the over 26,000 dieters involved, the average amount of weight lost was about 11 to 19 pounds after six months and then the familiar plateaus hit yet after four years, participants maintained about 6.5 to 13 pounds of weight loss — still better than packing on more weight.

Experts at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that individuals make a plan to ensure that healthy eating patterns occur every day including weekends, holidays, vacations and workdays. The old saying that “failing to plan is planning to fail” aptly fits here. With a plan, you can decide once and for all to eat healthily and not to be tempted by the junk food and sweets that are so abundant at this time of year.

This is not a “nice to do” regime, it is essential to growing old well. Obesity and over-weightedness is associated with chronic debilitating diseases and of course, many deadly conditions. Constant control of the diet and exercise is required in order to live healthily and fully.

You wouldn’t think of putting kerosene in your car or even your lawn mower as fuel, because you know it would ruin it over time (if it worked to fuel the machine at all) and also would not allow the machine to function optimally, so why would you put sub-optimal fuel in your body? The car you can replace, your pancreas you cannot.

Adequate sleep is also essential to getting and keep the weight off. Not only does inadequate sleep mess with your hormones and make weight loss more difficult, when you’re tired you are more likely to grab sugary foods to “give you some energy.”

Most adults require at least seven hours of sleep a night in order to function well and to keep the bodily hormones properly balanced. A long term study (16 years) with over 68,000 women participating found that those who slept less than five hours per night gained about 2.5 pounds more than those who slept seven or more hours per night.

In addition, those who slept less than five hours per night were 15 percent more likely to become obese during the study period.

As a holiday help for those of you who would like assistance in setting up a nutritional and exercise program that will fit in with your lifestyle, I am offering a free one-hour planning session to the first 10 people who call or email me with that request. Happy holidays — let’s commit to be fit for the New Year! Aloha!


Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser, and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at, (808) 212-8119,


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