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10 secrets of weight-loss winners

It’s tough to lose weight—and just as difficult to keep it off. The statistics tell us that nine out of 10 people regain lost weight, but that means 10 percent successfully keep it off. How do they do it? Researchers who’ve been digging for the answer to that very question say these 10 habits may well be the key.

Habit #1: They walk.

Sure, some cycle or do aerobic dance, but mostly, they walk—about several miles a day, or 16 miles a week.

Habit #2: They rely on the support of friends, neighbors and co-workers. They build networks that sustain them—for day-to-day living and for weight maintenance. For example, they form walking groups that help them stick to their exercise programs. When individual motivation wanes, accountability to the group kicks in.

Habit #3: They eat healthy foods. These weight-loss victors know that exercise alone won’t cut it. To slim down—and stay slim—they remain vigilant about nutrition. They practice variety, balance and moderation. They cook with little or no fat, and they eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy products and lean entrees.

Habit #4: They limit their portion sizes. They eat a variety of foods, but they know that too much—even too much of a good thing—isn’t so good. They know that calories (not just fat grams) count.

Habit #5: They’re in tune with their emotions. Weight-loss winners know how to distinguish true hunger from feelings of anger, loneliness and fatigue. When they’re hungry, they eat, but to sort through emotions, they call friends, take naps, breathe deeply, read books or start projects. What’s more, they differentiate between hunger and appetite (an honest-to-goodness rumble versus a wouldn’t-a-doughnut-taste-good-about-now rumble). They don’t wait until they feel ravenous to quell hunger pangs because they know if they do, they might just empty the fridge or jump directly to dessert.

Habit #6: They examine underlying issues and get counseling if necessary. Family and personal issues can sabotage success. Sometimes, for example, well-meaning relatives undermine weight-loss efforts by showing love via fried chicken, biscuits and gravy. Or a spouse may feel threatened by his suddenly shapely wife. Counselors can help resolve such issues and develop effective, noncaloric coping strategies.

Habit #7: They confront problems directly. Weight-loss winners don’t make excuses (“I’ve worked so hard, I deserve to eat this entire pizza myself”) or blame others (“I wouldn���t have eaten that half-gallon of ice cream if John hadn’t bought it”) for overeating. They also don’t engage in black-and-white thinking. For example, if they eat a few cookies, they don’t tell themselves that they may as well finish off the package. (If you had $100, and $5 blew away, would you throw the other $95 to the wind?) Instead, successful weight maintainers forgive a lapse and use it as incentive to take a walk or cut portions at the next meal.

Habit #8: They use behavioral strategies. They plan meals, shop with lists, put their forks down between bites, chew slowly, store foods out of sight, package leftovers immediately and develop other strategies for changing their behavior. They may link exercise to other daily habits, like walking after breakfast or cycling during the news. Or maybe they eat fruit on the ride home from work.

Habit #9: They recognize that weight management lasts a lifetime. They know they need to continue to exercise, eat nutritiously and think positively for the rest of their lives.

Habit #10: They live in the present. They go to the beach, wear shorts, exercise, dance and participate in other enjoyable activities right now. They don’t wait for the perfect shape to do the things they want to do.