Secrets of Successful Dieters

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Mar 25, 2009

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Have you tried to lose weight many times? Or, maybe you’ve lost several pounds but gained it all back again. If so, you’re not alone. It’s extremely challenging to maintain weight loss. However, some people do manage to achieve their weight loss and weight maintenance goals.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) ( is a database that tracks more than 5,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained the loss for at least 1 year. How did these people keep off the weight? Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, CSCS, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, a registered dietitian and an ACE master trainer, shares some of their secrets.

Control Portions

Portion sizes were much smaller in the past than they are today. With today’s portion sizes, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re eating. To lose weight, you must control your food portions. In fact, research suggests portion control is the greatest predictor of successful weight loss (Logue et al. 2004). Control portions by learning to read nutrition labels; carefully measuring out servings; eating only a single helping; using smaller serving dishes; and resisting the urge to “clean your plate.”

Be Aware

Practice paying attention to everything you eat. Many people turn to food when they are bored or stressed out. Ask yourself why you are heading to the fridge or pantry. Are you really motivated by hunger, or are you just bored, stressed, sad or tired? Emotional eating can wreak havoc on a well-planned weight management program. Keeping a daily food log and jotting down what you are feeling can help you identify your emotions, monitor your food intake and hold yourself accountable.

It’s also important to know your weight. While it is not advisable to become obsessive about weight to the nearest 0.01 pound, people who maintain their weight loss do so by keeping periodic tabs on the scale, weighing themselves at least once per week. This way they are able to identify small weight increases in time to take appropriate corrective action (NWCR 2007).

Turn Off the Tube

Time spent watching TV is usually time spent being completely sedentary (and thus expending minimal amounts of calories) and often eating as well. Most people mindlessly consume snacks while mesmerized in front of the television, not noticing the rapidly multiplying calorie intake. Case in point: the successful NWCR “losers” watched less than 10 hours of television per week (Raynor et al. 2006).


Logue, E.E., et al. 2004. Longitudinal relationship between elapsed time in the action stages of change and weight loss. Obesity, 12 (9), 1499–508.

National Weight Control Registry. 2007 NWCR facts.; retrieved Sept. 15, 2007.

Raynor, D.A., et al. 2006. Television viewing and long-term weight maintenance: Results from the National Weight Control Registry. Obesity, 14 (10), 1816–24.

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at