Keeping the Weight Off

Losing weight isn't the toughest part of the diet wars; keeping the weight off permanently is. Here's how to do it.

By Kristyn Kusek Lewis
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"I found out exercise can be fun."

Lisa Trapani, 45, Westminster, Maryland

Lost: 40 pounds

Maintained for: One-and-a-half years

When Trapani decided to lose weight, she needed to get physical. "It occurred to me that when I was a kid, I loved running around, but as an adult, I'd come to see moving my body as a self-conscious thing. I decided that if I thought of exercising as a way to blow off steam, I might enjoy it."

Although Trapani has made some tweaks to her diet -- eating a healthy breakfast and downsizing her dinner -- her primary focus has been on exercising at least 30 minutes a day. She has been surprised to discover her new workout is her favorite part of the day. When she's on the treadmill, she blasts Madonna. Trying new exercise videos, she found that she loves Pilates. Her bottom line: Keep workouts fresh so you'll stay at it, then reap the rewards.

Everyone can find something they enjoy doing that gets them to move more, says Jay Ashmore, PhD, of the Cooper Aerobics Center, in Dallas. "One of my clients loves art," he says. "So we have her do her walks in museums and gardens. She gets her physical activity needs met by doing something she loves, and she's lost 50 pounds."

"I pamper myself."

Dee Wolk, 62, Cleveland, Ohio

Lost: 42 pounds

Maintained for: 24 years

Wolk stayed on the lose-gain roller coaster until her 30s, when she realized she knew a lot about dieting but not about emotional eating. "I ate because I was tired, bored, angry, happy, had worked hard or not enough," she says. "I needed to learn how to take care of myself without food."

She figured it out, and now she teaches her technique at the Cleveland Clinic, among other places. Her favorite trick is to treat herself to something every day, filling the emotional void she used to stuff with food. "Sometimes it's calling an old friend, and sometimes it's taking off my bra and putting on a comfy old robe," she says.

But is a soothing bath a satisfying substitute for a banana split? "The more you treat yourself, the more you reinforce the good habits and weaken the bad one," Beck says.

"I eat several small meals a day."

Michaela McKenna, 43, Scottsdale, Arizona

Lost: 50 pounds

Maintained for: One year

McKenna felt heavy and dumpy. So while her husband of 22 years was on a yearlong work assignment overseas, she lost 50 pounds by enrolling in a diet program.

Eating small amounts of food several times a day has kept the weight off. "In the past, I'd be too busy to eat until the afternoon," McKenna says. "Then, when the kids came home from school, I'd start grazing. I'd eat 4,000 calories by bedtime." Now her daytime food choices consist of yogurt and a handful of almonds, or a high-protein cereal bar and fruit. At dinner she eats a small portion of whatever her family is having, such as fish and whole wheat pasta. Eating frequently keeps her blood sugar level even, so she doesn't have the energy highs and lows that used to lead to cravings. If you graze throughout the day, make sure to keep the quantity per sitting to a minimum, says Molly Kimball, RD, of the Ochsner Clinic's Elmwood Fitness Center, in New Orleans. "Aim for 200 to 300 calories per meal, about every three to four hours."

"I keep a food diary."

Doris Lancaster, 49, Cedar Hill, Texas

Lost: 65 pounds

Maintained for: One year

Lancaster lost weight through a program sponsored by her local hospital. Her secret weapon is her food diary. On FitDay.com, a free, private online log, she keeps track of everything she puts in her mouth. "It's tedious, but I know if I have a milk shake, it's going on my permanent record," she says. The diary has also helped her identify eating patterns and triggers, and knowing what drives her to overeat or crave unhealthy foods makes her less likely to succumb.

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