Shape Up America! Newsletter
How to Stop Regaining After Weight Loss
by Barbara J. Moore, PhD
Many people lose substantial amounts of
weight - again and again. Surprisingly, few
studies have focused on the issue of weight
regain and how to prevent it. A recent
study1 has made a significant
contribution to addressing this need. Using
data from the 1999-2002 National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES),
researchers studied 1,300 U.S. adults aged 20
to 84 years who were once overweight or obese
and who had lost at least 10% of their body
weight. Of these people, 8% were still losing
weight, 59% were maintaining their weight
loss, and the remainder had regained their
Some of the factors associated with a higher
risk of weight regain were:
- Mexican American ethnicity
- Losing more than 20% of initial body
- More recent substantial weight loss
- More hours sitting in front of a screen
(TV, computer, or video screen)
- Sedentary lifestyle (failing to be
at least moderately active 30 minutes or more
In this study, eating out more frequently was
associated with weight regain, but the
association missed reaching statistical
The strength of this study is that it focuses
on an ethnically diverse nationally
representative population that is typical of
U.S. adults. To my knowledge, this study is
the first to report a greater tendency to
regain weight among Mexican Americans, a
troubling finding that needs to be studied
further to identify genetic and/or cultural
factors that may play a role.
This study, like so many others, points to
the importance of reducing screen time -
whether the screen is a TV, computer or
video. Plus, it reinforces the importance of
a more active lifestyle which has long been
identified as a key element in weight
It is not surprising that people who lost
larger amounts of weight and those who did so
more recently were at higher risk for weight
regain. The skills associated with keeping
weight off are different from losing
weight, and those skills often take more than
one weight-loss attempt to learn and sustain.
Weight maintenance strategies include:
- Anticipating challenges such as a
wedding celebration or party and planning a
strategy to enjoy yourself while maintaining
control of your eating.
- Monitoring your weight, percentage
body fat or your waistline on a regular
basis, so you can take immediate action if
your weight starts to increase.
- Setting up a system to periodically
reward yourself (with a non-food reward) for
successful weight maintenance.
- Using yoga or meditation to help
manage stress and to stay focused on
sustaining your commitment to healthy eating
and a more active lifestyle.
The maintenance of weight loss is rather like
a good marriage - you have to work on it
Push Ups - Another Look at a Classic Exercise
This month we review a classic exercise for
training the upper body — the push up.
up tones and strengthens muscles in the
chest, shoulders and triceps (the muscles
located on the back of your upper arms).
Here are two basic points that are essential
for an effective push up.
1) Maintain a straight line from your heels
to your head. A common mistake when doing
push ups is to send your rear end up into the
air so your body looks more like a tent than
a flat board. Make up your mind now that you
are going to do fewer reps, and use correct
form for each rep. For the beginner's push
up, keep your body straight all the way from
your head to your knees, and for the regular
push up, keep it straight all the way from
your head to your heels.
The beginner's push up (Figure 1) and the
regular push up (Figure 2) are shown below.
2) Your chest must touch the ground.
Touching your chest to the ground is
important because this means that you have
pushed your muscles through their full range
of motion. This is essential if you want to
get the greatest benefit from this exercise.
Here again, think about good form rather than
a large number of reps.
To begin this exercise, start with the
beginner's push up (Figure 1). It is
perfectly OK to do just a few reps to start.
Work up VERY slowly to a complete set of 15
reps. After several weeks or months, when you
are ready, you can increase your sets until
you reach the goal of three sets of 15 reps.
You can then progress to the regular push up
(Figure 2). You should not progress to the
next level until you can successfully
complete the push ups using proper form.
A point of variation is hand spacing. You can
start with your hands slightly greater than
shoulder's width apart. Once you have worked
your way up to three sets of 15 reps of the
regular push up, you can then start to vary
your hand spacing. The further your hands are
apart, the more your chest muscles will be
worked. The closer your hands are together,
the more your triceps muscles will be worked.
With two body positions and three hand
positions (wide, shoulder width, and closer
together), you have six different variations
of the push up that you can use in your workouts.
Figure 1: Beginner's push up
Figure 2: Regular push up
Frightening words by the doctor got Ernie
to change his life. Now, with 120 fewer
pounds to carry around, Ernie is healthier,
fitter, and proud of his
When I was eight years old, I broke my leg. I
went on to break it three more times. I was
of average weight until I got into high
school where it was 222 pounds. I am 63 years
old and in the winter of 2005, I was
diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I, too,
suffered from hypertension, sleep apnea, a
replaced right hip and a replaced left knee.
My mother died from a massive heart attack
when she was 49 years old. Well, when I was
60 years old, a drastic change came over my
life. I now weighed 349 pounds and was
gaining more! That is when the doctor saved
my life and told me that I had about six
months to live before I had a serious heart
I changed my life. It has been a little over
two years and I have lost about 120 pounds
and have 40 more to go. I no longer take any
type of diabetes medicine. Most of the time
my sugar level is well under 100.
I owe my life to this doctor. I now ride my
bike anywhere from 10 to 35 miles per day!
And the results are startling to all the
people who knew me before. I live in a small
town of about 900 people and everyone knows
that I am the man who rides his bike
throughout the year regardless of the cold
My life has changed from where I was dying to
one where I am extremely proud of my
accomplishment. The rewards are
tremendous...new clothes, sitting in a
restaurant booth, being able to use a urinal,
not being ashamed of myself.
I did not use Weight Watcher's or any other
diet program. I cut out the sweets. I did use
the AA program (Alcoholics Anonymous). It was
a great help. Lastly, I am going to write a
book about an "obese" man whose life has changed.
If you would like to share your personal
success story and be an inspiration to others
who desire to lose weight, simply use our story
submission system on the SUA website.
Recipe of the Month
July is National Blueberry Month. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, compounds that help protect against chronic diseases and give berries their deep blue color. Blueberries are also a good source of fiber. This refreshing cold soup is ideal on a hot summer day.
Makes 4 servings
- 1 bag (16 oz.) frozen blueberries, defrosted
- 2 cups fat-free or low-fat buttermilk
- 1/2-3/4 cup orange juice (preferably
fresh), or to taste
- 2 Tbsp. honey, or to taste
- Zest of 1 navel orange
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
- 1 cup diced fresh fruit (strawberries,
peaches, nectarines, mango, or a mixture of
any or all)
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche* and 12 small mint
leaves, for garnish (optional)
*As a substitute for crème fraîche, combine
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream with a small
amount of superfine sugar, to taste.
- In a blender, purée blueberries and half
the buttermilk until completely smooth. Add
remaining buttermilk, orange juice, honey,
zest and cinnamon (if using). Process until
mixture is smooth.
- Chill soup at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- About 30 minutes before serving, remove
soup from refrigerator and let stand. Just
before serving, divide fruit among 6 shallow
soup bowls. Gently add soup base to each bowl.
- For garnish, gently spoon a dollop of
crème fraîche (or a substitute, see below) in
the center of each serving and surround diced
fruit with 3 mint leaves. Serve immediately.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 165
calories, 1 gram total fat, less than 1 gram
saturated fat, 35 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams
dietary fiber, 5 grams protein, 131
Source: American Institute for Cancer