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Lose Weight and Keep It Off

New research shows that what helps you lose weight and what helps you keep weight off aren’t necessarily one and the same. Find out what works.

| January 1st, 2014
Lose Weight, and Keep it Off

People who want to lose weight and people who want to maintain their weight loss often assume the same strategies. Eat less and exercise, right? Well, yes, to a point. While watching your portions and working up a sweat are always good beauty and health plans (regardless of if you want to drop pounds or not), turns out that the way you lose weight versus the way you keep that weight off are different.

If your goal is: Losing weight

Be a master planner

Most of us have our schedules planned down to the last minute–from early a.m. meetings to conference calls to that dentist appointment you’re (finally!) getting around to–but rarely do we give that much thought to planning our meals.

Turns out it’s in your best interest. A study from Penn State found that subjects who planned what they ate ahead of time were almost twice as likely to report successful weight loss than those who didn’t.

“Aim for five small meals a day, and plan everything in advance,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., YouBeauty Nutrition Advisor and wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic. “Prepare your meals on the weekends when you have time, and never go more than 3 ½ hours without putting something in your mouth. Carry a low-sugar energy bar, trail mix or an apple so you’re not tempted to buy a snack from the office vending machine.”

MORE: Less Sugar Diet for the Day, from Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.

The other key to successful meal planning? Portion control. “People don’t have a running meter on their mouth that says ‘I hit 500 calories, I’m done.’ You have to control your portion sizes,” says Christopher Sciamanna, M.D., professor of medicine and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine.

For those just starting their quest to lose weight, Dr. Sciamanna recommends pre-packaged meals. “They’re inexpensive, and they’re brainless,” he says. Caveat: Skip frozen “diet” dinners. “They tend to be low in quality nutrients and fiber,” says Kirkpatrick. Instead, choose pre-packaged meals rich in vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Dr. Sciamanna’s pick: Kashi.

Once you’ve gotten an idea of what a proper portion size looks like, you can graduate to D.I.Y. pre-packaging: Portion out your meal, then put away the serving bowl. “Don’t leave it sitting out on the table, waiting for you to refill your plate,” says Dr. Sciammana.

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