BLUE SPRINGS, Mo.–Many people start the year resolving to lose weight. A lot of those people succeed—at first. But the pounds we shed early in the year often find their way back to us by the following January.

“The challenge lies in maintaining that weight loss,” says Tammy Roberts, University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist. “The good news is that if you can maintain your loss for more than two years, you decrease your risk of regaining the weight by more than 50 percent.”

Brown University’s National Weight Control Registry ( tracks people who have lost at least 30 pounds and have maintained that loss for at least a year. Research on those who maintain their weight loss has revealed some common practices:

Eat breakfast. “It is well established that people who eat breakfast eat fewer calories later in the day,” Roberts said.

Eat a low-calorie diet. People on the registry tend to eat four to five smaller meals a day rather than just three, she said. While the people on the registry have lost weight in a variety of ways, the most common was a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.

Be physically active. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Some people may need more. People on the registry get about an hour of moderate-intensity exercise every day. For a majority of them, the exercise is walking.

Eat a consistent diet from day to day. People on the registry stick to the same routine and don’t eat a large variety of foods. “This is logical when you look at research that tells us that the more variety we have, the more we eat,” Roberts said, citing the work of Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor of consumer behavior and author of the popular book “Mindless Eating.” However, Roberts cautions that you do need enough variety in your diet to get needed nutrients.

Weigh in regularly. Some weigh in as often as once a day. This lets them identify and manage weight gain quickly.

Watch a limited amount of television. “If you’re not watching TV, you’re more likely to be active,” Roberts said.

Manage weight-gain episodes. “People who keep weight off don’t let a pound or two of weight gain get them down,” she said. “They become vigilant with their food intake and exercise to lose the small amount of weight gained. The people who gain weight usually do so because of less exercise, increased television viewing or more fat in the diet.”

For more information from MU Extension on food and fitness, including feature articles, recipes and learning opportunities, see or contact your local MU Extension center.

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