5 On Your Side

Six secrets to losing weight

Posted February 2, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

A massive survey by Consumer Reports found six key behaviors that help people lose weight and keep it off.

Two out of three American adults are overweight, and adults gain an average of 20 pounds between ages 25 and 55. Yet some people are able to lose weight permanently, and others never seem to gain a pound.

Secret keys to keep off the pounds Secret keys to keep off the pounds

Consumer Reports interviewed 21,000 readers to find out their secrets to losing weight.

Diane Lobel said she found that exercise and eating right were the keys to losing 40 pounds and keeping it off for three years.

"The doctor is even happy. He thought I was a completely different patient. He had to check his records to make sure it was me," Lobel said.

Consumer Reports staffers broke down eating right and exercising into six key behaviors.

No. 1 is one we all know but don't want to hear – watching portions and not eating everything you want.

"People who've always been thin typically aren't sitting around eating potato chips," said Jamie Koph, of Consumer Reports. "Only 3 percent of the thin people we surveyed said they ate whatever they pleased and never exercised."

"Portion control is a given. I have to make sure I don't go overboard on anything that I eat," Lobel said.

Like Lobel, most of the successful dieters lost weight without the help of a diet program, pills or a medical treatment. Their strategies were similar to those of the naturally thin.

No. 2, after portion control, is that they eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The more days that respondents ate five or more fruits and veggies, the lower their average body mass index (BMI) was.

Strategy No. 3: People with lower body weights consistently opted for whole-wheat breads and other whole grains, rather than white flour.

Next, No. 4: limit fat. Restrict it to less than a third of your daily calorie intake.

Exercise – No. 5 – is, of course, another secret of successful dieters. Although vigorous exercise is especially effective, the survey shows that any physical activity is helpful.

Finally, the survey found that those who weigh less eat out less. And as a bonus, eating home-cooked meals can also save you money.

Consumer Reports has suggestions for cooking healthy meals on a budget.


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  • KB2IYS Feb 5, 2009

    Duvler: You said, "Why does everyone have to be thin anyway? If people are happy with a little extra weight, who cares?"

    A little extra weight isn't the problem. It's the percentage of folks who are morbidly obese that is growing.

    Since I do not believe in the "nanny state", I don't care if folks pound down the Ho-Ho's - to each his own.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Feb 4, 2009

    It's not how much you eat, but WHAT you eat. e.g. celery

    Follow Dr. Dean Ornish and you'll eat more, weigh less and reverse your heart disease. It's simply, really. I've been doing it for over a decade.

  • duvler Feb 4, 2009

    Why does everyone have to be thin anyway? If people are happy with a little extra weight, who cares?

  • CestLaVie Feb 4, 2009

    justanothername: It must be a secret, because NO ONE seems to know these common sense ideas!!

  • -Enter Screen Name- Feb 3, 2009

    @2headstrong: While I understand where you are coming from, I believe the posters are commenting on the fact that many people that want to lose weight respond with: *munch*munch* I don't know *munch*munch* why I can't seem to *munch*munch* lose any weight *munch*munch*munch*.

    I know, I lost ~40 lbs. 4 years ago, and have kept it off with almost no effort. The two things I focused on were portion control and daily exercise, neither of which I had really done before.

    For me, it was 2 common sense practices, and 2 "secrets".

    CS1: Portion control - only ate realistic portions; didn't cut out types of food, either - I ate pizza, McD's, whatever. Just had a happy-meal instead of the double-quarter-poundr
    CS2: Daily exercise. Jogged a 2.6 mile lap around my neighborhood.

    Secret 1: For the first month, absolutely no sugar. No sweets, treats, or desserts. My 1 exception was 1 soda with lunch. Past that, it was water only.
    Secret 2: If I got peckish, snacked on "free vegetables".

  • 2headstrong Feb 3, 2009

    It might be common sense, but obviously, it's not commonly followed. It takes a lot of self-discipline for most, especially those raised in families where food is the focus of social gatherings, and kids aren't portion-restricted.

  • justanothername Feb 3, 2009

    Um...what are the actual secrets? This is just common sense!

  • jr1brown Feb 2, 2009

    Wow, groundbreaking stuff. Eat less, exercise more, don't eat whatever you want and eat healthier food? Never would have thought of all that new stuff.....