Losing weight is tough, but lots of us have managed to do it. Keeping it off is a bigger challenge. We tend to gain back the pounds we lost, often within weeks or months.

Because we don’t need as many calories at a lower weight, to stay slimmer we simply have to eat less.

The experts give us some proven methods for maintaining weight loss.

There are successful losers — people who manage to lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off. We can learn from them, thanks to the National Weight Control Registry and the research done on those in it. By studying them, scientists have learned how they manage to beat the odds.

Who’s in the Weight Control Registry?

They’re folks who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year. Five thousand-plus people are in the registry. Their average weight loss was 60 pounds, maintained for many years.

Many of these people had factors working against them. Two-thirds had been overweight as children. Nearly that many have a family history of obesity. Most had tried many diets before they successfully lost and kept off weight.

How Did They Lose Weight?

Almost half of the group lost weight on their own, without joining any program. The rest were on weight loss programs. The common thread among them was that 94% of them increased their physical activity while they dieted. Few lost weight using diet alone.

How Did They Keep It Off?

The successful losers have five things in common:

Almost all (90%) are very active. They exercise an average of one hour a day. Walking is the most common activity.

They keep track of their weight and eating. About 75% of participants weigh themselves at least once a week, and many weigh in daily. They also regularly write down what they eat. This keeps them aware of small weight gains and of the connection between eating and weight.

About 78% eat breakfast every day. Successful losers spread their calories out over four to five small meals a day.

Most (62%) watch less than 10 hours of TV per week. Many studies have found that people who watch a lot of TV are more apt to be overweight.

They tend to eat a low-calorie diet and very little fast food. These folks say that they eat 1300 to 1500 calories a day.

Hard Time Keeping Weight Off?

A total of 42% of participants said it was easier to maintain their weight loss than losing the weight had been. And 95% said their quality of life was better. Their self-confidence, moods and health improved.

Here’s the really good news. They also reported that it took less effort to maintain their weight loss over time. Whether or not they enjoyed eating a low-fat diet or exercising nearly every day, it gradually became easier to do.

Metabolism doesn’t play as big a role in losing weight as many believe. In the end, it’s simply a matter of eating less and moving more.