Cornell Researchers Share 4 Keys to Sustaining a Healthy Weight (#3 May Surprise You)

Cornell Researchers Share 4 Keys to Sustaining a Healthy Weight (#3 May Surprise You)

With the omnipresence of dieting in the media, it’s no wonder it seeps into our consciousness – from “Drop 10 pounds in 2 weeks in 15 minutes a day!” to “This magic food will help you look great for bikini season!” We keep looking for tricks to drop pounds fast, even though health professionals repeat again and again that there is no trick: the secret to healthy weight is long-term healthy choices.

But if you still don’t believe it, ask those who have lived it.

Cornell Food and Brand Lab researchers have developed an online Global Healthy Weight Registry to shed light on the health behaviors of people who maintain a healthy weight. Adults of healthy weight were invited to sign up for the registry, and they were then asked to answer questions about diet, exercise, and daily routines.

The results show exactly what health experts keep trying to tell us. “Most slim people don’t employ restrictive diets or intense health regimes to stay at a healthy weight,” says the study’s co-author Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab.

So why is it so hard for us to believe that crash diets don’t work?

Because the truth is that sustainable weight loss requires making lifestyle changes, whereas crash diets let us believe that we can make up for a lifetime of poor choices with just two weeks of hard work. “Functionally, the ideal weight management program does not fit to the majority of people’s lifestyle,” says Stanislav Maravilla, PT, MBA, CLA, Director of Rehabilitation Services at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center. “It takes a significant amount of commitment and dedication to make significant changes on top of the daily grind of ‘life.’”

But don’t lose hope. Once you’ve got the motivation to make these changes, you’ll see that they’re not all that scary. Maravilla says that one of the major keys is in uncovering  your “why.” “The more significant the ‘Why,’ the better your dedication and commitment,” he says. “For example, determine, ‘I want to lose weight because I don’t want to continue taking my blood pressure medication.’”

Once you’re armed with your “why,” it’s time to try out some of these successful tips — and trust us, these numbers don’t lie.

1. Breakfast actually is that important.

We’ve been hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day since we were kids, and yet according to a 2011 NPD Group survey, 10 percent of Americans do not eat breakfast. Which is too bad, because 96 percent of the adults in the Global Healthy Weight Registry do.

Eating breakfast is positively essential to maintaining a healthy weight, according to Kristen Trukova, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC, CSO, Clinical Oncology Dietitian at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center.

“Eating breakfast helps prevent overeating later in the day and increases metabolism,” she says. “An ideal breakfast would contain around 20gm protein (from nuts, eggs, yogurt, lean meat or protein powder), as well as whole grains and a serving of fruits or vegetables (at least ½ cup).”

If you’re strapped for ideas, here are some of our favorite protein-rich breakfast recipes to get you started.

2. Exercise is key.

We all know that exercise is important, but many of us probably aren’t exercising enough, even on our best days. While the Department of Health and Human Services recommends about 150 minutes a week of exercise, Maravilla says that 150 is only a baseline, and up to 300 minutes a week is ideal.

The research supports this, with 42 percent of adults in the registry reporting exercising at least five times a week. Maravilla recommends alternating a day of cardio and flexibility training and a day of strength and flexibility training to make the most of this time.

Five hour-long training sessions a week may seem like a lot to fit in, but you can make the transition easier by taking baby steps. “Remember, non-structured exercise programs take energy as well,” Maravilla explains. “For example, if you have a desk job, an accumulative minimal strenuous activity, like walking for five minutes on every hour during the day (a total of 40 minutes per day), is more beneficial than sitting all day.”

3. The scale isn’t your enemy.

Countless health professionals have suggested that those looking to maintain a healthy weight need to distance themselves from the scale, but the numbers don’t lie: 50 percent of adults with healthy weight weighed themselves at least weekly. So what’s the deal?

The key is to develop a healthy relationship with your scale. Weight is just a number, but noticing five pounds creep on over the course of a month may be an indication that you need to cut back on the sweets — and it’s a whole lot easier than only taking action after a 30-pound gain 6 months down the line.

Don’t let the scale define you, but hold off on banishing it completely — it may prove to be a useful tool to achieving your sustainable weight loss goals.

4. Diets don’t work.

Do yourself a favor, and stop reading about the newest fad or crash diet — sustainable weight loss almost never results from these. More than 80 percent of participants in “The Biggest Loser” have regained at least some of the weight they lost, because the changes that they made temporarily were not sustainable. Meanwhile, 74 percent of adults in the Healthy Weight Register reported never or rarely dieting.

That being said, 92 percent reported being conscious of what they ate. In other words, binge dieting or fad diets aren’t the answer, but that doesn’t mean you can lose focus on what’s going into your body either. 44 percent of those surveyed used at least one non-restrictive strategy, including listening to inner cues, cooking at home, and choosing high-quality foods for their meals.

In other words, by making changes that you can live with every day for the rest of your life, a sustainable healthy weight is well within your reach.

Did we miss any of your top keys to healthy weight loss? Clue us in by sharing your story via Facebook or Twitter @organicauthorit.

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Weight loss image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.