The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is the largest database in the world that tracks people who have lost weight and managed to keep it off. They have tracked over 10,000 people and the average person has lost 66 pounds and kept it off for five and a half years.

The NWCR, along with the latest and greatest research studies, reveal many truths about what it takes to lose weight and keep it off.

Here are 7 of them, and you may find some of them quite harsh (but don’t worry, because there’s a silver lining at the end).

Losing weight is painstakingly difficult.

Everyone wants a quick fix these days. But when it comes to weight loss, there’s no such thing. We’re inundated with companies that peddle pills and potions that promise to help us “Torch fat fast!”

Don’t be naive though.

Losing weight takes good old fashioned hard work. Period. There are no shortcuts.

Diets don’t work for most people.

50 million people in the United States will go on a diet this year.

Guess how many of them will fail to keep the weight off?

40 million.

You read that correctly–a full 80 percent of people fail on diets, according to research from the National Weight Control Registry.

So what’s the solution?

I call it the “real food diet.” Eat more whole, unprocessed foods that come from nature. And stop using the word “diet”. Losing weight requires a lifestyle change, and this means morphing your bad eating habits into good ones permanently.

Your body’s biological response makes losing weight even more difficult for you.

When you lose a lot of weight at once, your body go into self-preservation mode, something it has been biologically programmed to do over years of evolution.

For example, let’s say you recently lost 80 pounds on Jenny Craig over the course of 6 months. Your body will respond to this rapid weight loss by burning 20 to 25 percent fewer calories during exercise and everyday activities compared to someone who weighs the same as you who didn’t lose weight.

This puts overweight and obese people at a huge disadvantage when trying to maintain weight loss.

So how can you overcome this? By making small, gradual changes that allow your body the time it needs to adjust. More on that to come.

The scale is your ally, not your enemy.

Plenty of health experts will tell you to “forget about the scale” and focus on healthy behaviors instead. While I understand the reasons behind this approach, research shows that 75 percent of people who lose weight and keep it off weigh themselves at least once a week and over 33 percent of these weight loss success stories weigh themselves every day. Just some food for thought.

Your mind works against you too.

If you’re overweight or obese, there’s a good chance there is a deep emotional or stressful trigger that drives a lot of your unhealthy behaviors. Many obese people suffer from depression and self esteem issues, or were abused at some point in their past.

This can lead to deep emotional scars and a head full of negative thoughts about yourself. This is problematic when you want to lose weight. In fact, research proves you’re more likely to stick with a behavior change like weight loss when it’s rooted in positive thinking.

Working with an experienced health care provider can help you turn these mental roadblocks into motivation to lose weight and keep it off.

You make excuses for the reasons you gained weight in the first place.

Listen, I know certain people have thyroid conditions … or genetics working against them … or a traumatic childhood experience that leads to major self esteem issues. But here’s the deal: the main reason you gain a lot of weight is because you ate too much and didn’t exercise enough.

Don’t make excuses. Don’t dwell on the circumstances that were beyond your control.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, accept responsibility for your actions, and think about what you will do different starting now.

You will need to drastically change your habits to maintain weight loss in the long run.

Research from the National Weight Control Registry shows that these are the habits that are common among people who have lost large amounts of weight and kept it off:

  • 78 percent of people eat breakfast every day.
  • 62 percent of people watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • 90 percent of people exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article it’s this: your habits will largely determine your long-term weight loss success.

And to form a habit, I recommend this simple approach:

  1. Pick one specific habit you want to change. For example, “stop drinking soda.”
  2. Start with just one tiny step. Order a small soda instead of a medium or replace one soda with a water this week. That’s it.
  3. Focus on the journey. Commit to the process, not the goal. Take small, daily steps and you will transform any bad habit.
  4. Track your progress. Write down the steps you take every day. It’ll take you 30 seconds. The rewards will be worth it.

Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint. So take it slow. Focus on one habit at a time. And above all, believe in yourself and your ability to take control of your health and your future.

Because the real truth about weight loss is this: whether you think you will or you think you won’t, you’re probably right.

Featured photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

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