by Adam Tolliday

An estimated 20 percent of overweight and obese Americans have lost weight and kept it off — which might make you feel alternately inspired and a little underwhelmed.

There are a lot of opinions about losing weight, but what many dieters learn firsthand is that it can be just as difficult, if not more so, to maintain that weight loss, and yet the discussion surrounding maintenance is noticeably quieter.

Here are a few of the things successful weight maintainers do differently.

  1. They make the transition from losing to maintaining as seamless as possible.
    Losing weight in a way that is closest to what maintaining will feel like may bring about the most success. “In general our philosophy is that the optimal way to lose weight is a way in which the changes from weight loss to maintenance are minimized,” says Thomas. “If you lose weight on a very unusual diet, for example where you’re only eating one type of food or you’re on a liquid meal plan, it can make it more difficult to transition to maintenance. You maybe know what to do for weight loss, but then you have to relearn what to do to eat a normal healthy diet,” he says. As if you needed another reason not to try the grapefruit diet.

Instead, learning right off the bat what it feels like to consume a more wholesome diet and incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine will help build healthier patterns that truly last. “Ideally, relatively little has to change, and in that way it facilitates the transition into maintenance,” says Thomas. “It’s not that they necessarily did something very different in the two different phases.”

  1. They are active. Really active.

    The average Registry maintainer logs at least 200 minutes a week of physical activity, says Thomas. There’s limited data currently as to what kind of role the type of exercise plays; what’s more important is simply moving more, even if it’s just brisk walking, he says.

In fact, successful maintainers may be even more active than people who have always been at a healthy weight, according to 2007 research. In that study, participants who had always been at a healthy weight were more likely to engage in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity, where more maintainers sweated it out for more than 60 minutes at a time.

  1. They don’t spend as much time in front of the TV.
    So how do they find the time to fit in all that fitness? “Part of it appears to be coming from decreased screen time, particularly with television viewing,” says Thomas. Registry members log less than 10 hours of TV time a week, while the average American adult watches more like 28. (Scary, isn’t it?)

But limited time on the couch is important for another reason: For many of us, TV time also means snack time. “By cutting down on TV time and increasing physical activity there may be a duel benefit of additional calorie burn and also potentially reducing eating that would otherwise occur,” says Thomas.

  1. They are consistent with their eating habits.
    There are some similarities between Registry members when it comes to their preferred style of eating, but the approach that’s right for one person isn’t always right for the next, says Thomas. He stresses that it’s possible to lose and maintain weight on a variety of diets and eating plans. What may be more important, he says, is variety — or lack thereof.

“Evidence suggests that one of the reasons we have a weight problem in the U.S. is changes to the food environment that have made delicious, high-calorie food easily accessible,” he says. “The Registry members seem to limit their exposure to the variety of foods in the environment by eating the same foods over and over again.”

Instead of selecting the day’s lunch from all possible options, successful maintainers stick to a set of foods they know they can be successful with, he says. And they’re highly consistent. “[They] don’t tend to splurge on weekends, holidays or other special occasions,” says Thomas.

  1. They find support.

    Accomplishing just about anygoal feels more attainable with a team of cheerleaders by your side. Social supporthas been linked to weight loss and maintenance in research and anecdotally among couples, friends and groups who tackle their goals together. Whether it’s making a date with a gym buddy or checking in with a fitness-tracking app, sharing maintenance plans with a support team can help you stay accountable. Upcoming Registry research aims to examine both social support and technology use among maintainers, says Thomas.

Via Huffington Post