Overcome Obesity With New Food Habits

Want to lose weight and keep it off? Don’t diet! Follow these healthy tips instead.


The number of obese Americans has doubled in the past 30 years. Want to know one big reason why? The average American consumes more than 3,800 calories a day. What’s wrong with that? It’s roughly twice as much as we need!

Is dieting the solution? Lots of people apparently think so. Approximately 45 million Americans try diets every year to lose weight. But the true “diets” — the kind that ask you to cut out major food groups, dramatically reduce your calorie count or eat only specific foods — just don’t work. Such drastic shifts in eating are not sustainable or healthy over the long term.

In fact, these types of diets often lead to weight gain. Researchers at UCLA found that while people typically lose 5 to 10 percent of their body weight in the first six months of dieting, after several years, one-third to two-thirds of dieters regain what they lost — and then put on even more pounds.

QUIZ: What's Your Eating Style?

Try This

Keep a food diary. Tracking what you eat in a journal can double your weight loss, according to a Kaiser Permanente study. The simple act of writing down what you eat can make you more aware of and accountable for how much you eat. Download our free food diary.

“We tell people, please don’t diet,” says Michael McKee, PhD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic who works with obese patients. “We want you to eat differently and exercise.”

What does it mean to eat differently? And does it really lead to long-term weight loss and better health? Quite simply: Yes.

Words to Weigh By
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) tracks more than 5,000 people who have lost significant amounts of weight (an average of 66 pounds) and kept it off for a long time (an average of 5.5 years). Researchers studying the NWCR have gleaned the following secrets to weight-loss success.

  • Eat a healthy breakfast. Seventy-eight percent of NWCR participants eat breakfast every day. Skipping breakfast does not save calories. Quite the opposite: Eating a healthy breakfast stops you from overloading on calories later in the day. People who skip breakfast report having less energy, so they’re less likely to burn calories through exercise or other physical activity. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit — this high-fiber breakfast will keep you well nourished and satisfied until lunch.
  • An apple a day…is just the beginning. “Add at least one serving of fruit to your breakfast and lunch, and one serving of vegetables to your lunch and dinner,” suggests Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, a registered dietitian and the director of wellness coaching at the Cleveland Clinic. The extra fiber will help you feel full longer so you’re less likely to go for seconds or snack later. Ninety-eight percent of NWCR participants report that they modified their food intake in some way. 
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