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Losing weight and keeping it off

Published:Wednesday | June 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Charlyn Fargo, Contributor

Maintenance of weight loss remains elusive for most. What's the difference between those who lose weight and keep it off, and those who lose weight only to regain it?

A study by researchers at the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia looked at six focus groups to find which factors promoted or prevented maintaining weight loss among a diverse, urban population. Eligible participants were those who had intentionally lost at least 10 per cent of their body weight in the past two years and were categorised as either 'regainers' or 'maintainers' using self-reported length of weight maintenance and amount regained.

Regainers had regained at least 33 per cent of their weight loss and maintainers had regained less than 15 per cent. Participants were predominately African-American females 46 to 57 years old. The study was reported in the April 2012 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Problem-solving skills

The study found that, when compared with regainers, maintainers more often continued strategies used during weight loss, weighed themselves regularly, used productive problem-solving skills and positive self-talk. Regainers experienced greater difficulty independently continuing food and exercise behaviours during maintenance, identifying decreased accountability and waning motivation as barriers. Both groups experienced lapses, wanted greater support during maintenance, decreased self-monitoring of food over time and were more apt to use how their clothes fit to determine weight loss.

Researchers found that weight-loss maintenance efforts can be improved by addressing challenges like long-term self-monitoring and problem-solving skills. The bottom line is that maintenance success might depend on how people think as much as what they do.

— Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

High-calorie nuts

Q: If weight control is so important for lower risk of heart disease and cancer, why do I see high-calorie nuts included in so many health-oriented diets?

A: Nuts do contain many nutrients and health-protective compounds, but they are concentrated in calories, so don't sit down with a big bowl and engage in mindless eating in front of the TV. The key is to use them to replace another food (not just adding them to what you eat already), and choose smart portions of nuts, usually one ounce per day, about quarter cup.

Studies with a variety of different nuts show that when people substitute nuts for foods such as fatty meat and deep-fried foods that are high in saturated or trans fats, blood cholesterol usually declines. Nuts contain mostly unsaturated fat that does not raise blood cholesterol, and they provide dietary fibre and small amounts of phytosterols that help control blood cholesterol.

Brazil nuts are outstanding sources of the antioxidant mineral selenium. Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and Brazil nuts supply vitamin E, another antioxidant. Walnuts contain a broad range of potentially protective compounds, including ellagitannins, polyphenols (such as flavonoids and phenolic acids) and gamma-tocopherol.

Finally, several large population studies link regular nut consumption with lower weight and a lower tendency to gain weight. So, if you monitor portion size, there's no reason to let weight worries keep you from nuts' many protective nutrients.

- American Institute for Cancer Research

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists,