Conventional dieting wisdom doesn't work for runners. It leaves you hungry, tired, and... overweight. So we updated seven popular weight-loss strategies to meet a runner's needs. Here's how you can fuel up smarter (on real food), run stronger, and drop pounds for good.
By Leslie Goldman
Dieter's Strategy: Eat low-fat foods
Runner's Strategy: Eat the right fats
Though the fat-free craze peaked in the '90s, many dieters still avoid oils, butter, nuts, and other fatty foods. Their logic: If you don't want your body to store fat, then don't eat fat. Many dieters also know that one gram of fat packs nine calories, while protein and carbohydrate both contain just four calories per gram. Dieters can stretch the same number of calories a lot farther if they eat mostly carbs and protein in place of fat.
But the notion that having fat in your diet isn't a bad thing is catching on again. "I think it's a pretty antiquated thought now that we need to eliminate fat to lose weight," says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Energy Naturally. In fact, studies have shown that eating moderate amounts of fat can actually help you lose weight. The key is to make sure you're eating the right kinds. Saturated and trans fats are unhealthy because they raise your levels of LDL (so-called "bad cholesterol"). Trans fats may also lower your HDL (or "good cholesterol") levels and increase your risk for heart disease--not to mention weight gain. But unsaturated fats (which include mono- and polyunsaturated) have important benefits. Here's why runners should include these fats in their diet.
1. Keep you satisfied: Unsaturated fats promote satiety, reduce hunger, and minimally impact blood sugar. That's important because if your blood sugar dips too low, you may experience cravings, brain fog, overeating, and low energy, making it "fiendishly difficult to lose weight," says Bowden.
2. Protect heart health: Unlike trans-fats, monounsaturated fats found in vegetable oils (such as olive and canola) and avocados have the added power to help lower LDL and reduce your risk of heart disease.
3. Reduce Injury: Unsaturated fats can help stave off injuries, such as stress fractures. A 2008 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that female runners on low-fat diets are at increased risk of injury--and a sidelined runner can't burn as many calories.
4. Decrease joint pain: Bowden adds that omega-3 fatty acids--which are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in fish (particularly in salmon), walnuts, and ground flaxseed--possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe knee, back, and joint aches and pains that plague many runners. Translation: You'll hurt less and run more.
Fat fact: A 2007 study found that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats can help prevent weight gain.
Real Runner: Abi Meadows 37, San Antonio
"As an ultramarathoner, I run high mileage and for years had no problem keeping weight off. But after five kids and a hysterectomy, I put on 20 pounds that wouldn't budge. Cutting calories didn't work--I was trying to train for 100-milers on a measly 2,000 calories a day. A nutritionist suggested I up my fats. Although hesitant (I ate low-fat cheese and fat-free dressing), I added salmon, avocados, walnuts, and flax to my diet. The results were unreal: Over the next six months, the weight came off, and I noticed a huge jump in energy. My cravings for ice cream and fries dropped--and I'll never eat a rice cake again."
Drop 5 Pounds in 4 Weeks
Starting to lose that extra weight can be easier than you think. One pound equals 3,500 calories, so to drop five pounds you need a calorie deficit of 17,500. Here's how to reach that five-pound loss in just four weeks.
* Estimates are based on a 150-pound person who runs four days a week, logging 15 to 20 miles total, running at a nine-minute-per-mile pace.
Change It Up Calorie Deficit Calorie Deficit per Week * per Month *
Swap out two days of 440 1,760 regular running for two days of speedwork Add three miles to your 300 1,200 weekly total
Cut 400 calories from your 2,800 11,200 daily intake
Every week add one session 500 2,000 of cross-training on a day when you don't run
Every week add one session 400 1,600 of strength-training on a day when you don't run
Total calorie deficit 4,440 17,760 (five pounds)
Bearing fruit Avocados boost Abi Meadows's healthy fat intake.
Dieter's Strategy: Develop a running routine and stick to it
Runner's Strategy: Mix up your routine with new types of workouts
Anyone trying to lose weight knows that he or she needs to work out on a nearly daily basis--and that's not easy. So to stay on track, dieters develop a workout routine (that often includes lots of steady, slowish runs) and then stick to it no matter what. "People are comfortable doing what they know," says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. "If you're a runner, you feel comfortable with a specific pace or distance." Sticking to that routine brings dieters security.
While running an easy three-miler a few days a week is better for weight-loss than doing nothing, there is a smarter approach. Slogging through the same run is like that Dunkin' Donuts baker rising at dawn, day after day. So break out of your routine by boosting your intensity and doing different types of workouts (like a weekly long run or a day of cross-training) to challenge your body and burn more calories. "It's a lot like city driving versus highway driving," says McCall. "When running a long, slow distance, your body becomes really efficient at using oxygen. The more times you do the same distance, the easier it gets and the fewer calories you burn. Sprinting is like starting and stopping a car, which uses more gas." Plus, trying something new can add fun and excitement into an otherwise dull workout. "Like Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham," McCall says, "you won't know how good another workout is until you try it."
Real Runner: Buck Hales 55, Oak Park, Illinois
"I've run marathons and ultras since 1991, but five years ago a stress fracture in my knee drastically limited my routine. Since I wasn't logging my usual 35 miles a week, I put on about 25 pounds in six months. I needed to maintain my aerobic endurance even if I couldn't run, so I started biking to and from work five days a week--and the extra pounds came off in just six months. I still use biking to supplement my runs, and in the winter, I use the rowing machine and other cardio machines three to four days a week. I'm still a runner through and through; mixing things up helps keep it that way."
Break Out of a Rut
A 150-pound runner doing a four-miler at a nine-minute pace burns about 480 calories. But you can torch more calories, speed weight loss, and spark up your workouts by swapping that four-miler with one of these high-intensity runs one to three times a week.
RUT BUSTER: Intervals WHAT: Alternating sprints of a certain distance (such as 400 meters) with recovery laps; often done at a measured track WHY: Sprinting at high speeds makes your body work harder and burns up to 30 percent more calories to keep up with the demand. HOW: 4 x 400 meters hard (max speed), separated by an easy 400-meter recovery lap 8 x 200 meters hard, separated by an easy 200 meters 4 x 100 meters hard, walking back to the start between sprints to recover CALORIES BURNED: 700
RUT BUSTER: Fartlek Training WHAT: A less formal version of intervals; the term actually means "speed play" in Swedish. WHY: Like interval workouts, fartlek sessions make your body burn more calories to match the demand of running faster. HOW: While out for a 45-minute run, pick a tree or mailbox about 50 meters away. Run hard (max speed) until you reach it, and then slow down until you're recovered. Continue alternating periods of hard running with recovery. CALORIES BURNED: 540
RUT BUSTER: Hills WHAT: This workout is exactly what it sounds like: running uphill for a period of time. WHY: Hills require more force to overcome the angle of the incline, leading to a challenging cardio workout; it's also a great way to strengthen the larger muscles of the legs. HOW: Find a steep hill 40 to 80 meters long. Follow this sequence, each time running up the hill and jogging back to recover. Start with 10 reps, progressing to 20: 5 runs at 50 percent max speed 2 to 3 runs at 80 percent max speed 1 sprint at max speed CALORIES BURNED: 600
Pedal Power Longtime runner Buck Hales bikes regularly to keep off the pounds he gained after a knee injury.
Dieter's Strategy: Cut out carbohydrates to lose weight
Runner's Strategy: Have quality carbs in every meal
In the past decade, the Atkins diet and other low-carb spin-offs have become as popular as 100-calorie snack packs. It's understandable why dieters would find these plans attractive: Just eat high-protein, high-fat foods--and shun carbs--to drop pounds. "The theory behind reducing carbs is that it helps control blood-sugar and insulin surges," says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D. "When you eat a high-carb food, insulin carries the sugar to muscles. But if your muscles don't use the energy, it gets stored in fat cells," leading to weight gain.
It's a different story for runners, however. We need carbs because they're our main source of glucose, a sugar that our brains and muscles use as fuel. Most glucose is stored in muscles and the liver as glycogen and used as energy when we run. But the body can only store a limited amount of glycogen, so if you haven't eaten enough carbs, you'll literally run out of fuel.
Keeping carbs in your diet will have a domino effect, says Barbara Lewin, R.D., owner of Sports-Nutritionist.com: Your energy levels will stay high, your workouts will improve, and you'll have more zip throughout the day. All this leads the way to a greater calorie burn and weight loss. Just keep in mind that "the kind of carbohydrates you eat makes all the difference in the world," says Bowden. Here's a quick guide to choosing the right ones for the right times.
1. Slow-burning carbs: These are high in fiber and are slowly digested. They keep your blood sugar steady, provide long-lasting energy, and should be a staple of your diet. Get them in oatmeal and other whole grains, beans, lentils, fruit, and vegetables.
2. Fast-burning carbs: These are digested quickly, are low in fiber, and have a greater effect on your blood sugar. They provide a quick hit of energy that's useful to runners right before working out, but they should be eaten in moderation. Get them in pasta, white rice, white flour, potatoes, and cornflakes.
Real Runner: Jessica Trumble 24, Albuquerque, New Mexico
"Several years ago, I had a bad reaction to a prescription and put on about 15 or 20 pounds. To lose the weight, I cut out almost all carbs--bread, pasta, the stereotypical 'bad' foods. Some pounds came off, but I was always hungry, craved sweets more, and had zero energy for my four-mile runs. My hair even started to thin. So I gradually re-introduced whole grains into my diet, foods like whole-wheat English muffins and pita bread, and my energy skyrocketed. My body said, 'Whoa! I have energy again!' Now I make sure to eat carbs, especially in the morning because it helps fuel my day. My runs are easier, I don't tire during my workouts as much, and I've lost all of the weight."
Back on track With carbs in her diet, Jessica Trumble has the energy to run harder.
Dieter's Strategy: Cut 500 calories a day to lose one pound a week
Runner's Strategy: Reduce calorie intake based on personal needs
You've probably heard of the 500 Rule--slash 500 calories a day to lose one pound a week (one pound equals 3,500 calories). "It's a nice, clean rule," says Lewin, and for a lot of dieters, cutting 500 calories a day will help them lose weight--at least for a while. The problem for runners, though, is that slashing that many calories can be too much--especially if you're training hard. "Cutting too many calories can be your worst enemy," says Lewin. "It can lead to plummeting energy levels. You might not be able to work out as well or maintain muscle mass--you're setting yourself up for failure." So rather than cutting 500 calories, runners should work to identify the number of calories they personally need to eat to lose weight, says Lewin. Here's how to find that number.
1. Count calories: Track your intake by keeping a detailed food journal for one week, says Lewin. Write down everything you eat and note your energy and hunger levels on a scale of one to 10 (nutritiondata.com and calorieking.com provide calorie counts for most foods, making it easy to do the math).
2. Trim--don't slash: "Start by cutting about 300 calories a day," says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "It's a more doable number and is more likely to reflect a drop in body fat." As long as you're running, you'll still hit a 500-calorie deficit per day and lose about one pound a week.
3. Tweak it: If you cut 300 calories and maintain your energy levels, but the number on the scale hasn't budged, it's time to reduce your intake gradually, says Bonci. You can also adjust for training. Racking up miles for a marathon? Add calories back in. Having an easy week? Reduce your intake further.
Small Changes, Big Rewards
You don't need to make drastic adjustments to your calorie intake to start dropping pounds. Small substitutes here and there can add up and lead to major weight loss. Jennifer Ventrelle, R.D., owner of a private weight-loss practice in Chicago called Weight No More, suggests these simple food swaps for a day of meals to help cut calories while keeping your energy levels high.
Swap Out: Bagel with cream cheese 360 calories Swap In: Whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and a cup of yogurt 325 calories Swap Out: Starbucks Grande Latte 190 calories Swap In: Starbucks Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte 130 calories Swap Out: Clif Bar 250 calories Swap In: High-fiber, high-protein granola bar, such as Kashi GoLean Crunchy Bar 180 calories Swap Out: Subway six-inch roast-beef sandwich on white with mayo, cheese, and veggies 400 calories Swap In: Subway six-inch roast-beef sandwich on wheat with mustard, no cheese, extra veggies, and apple slices on the side 340 calories Swap Out: Four-ounce pork chop and salad with apples, walnuts, and goat cheese 485 calories Swap In: Four ounces of pork tenderloin and a mixed green salad with apples and walnuts (hold the cheese), and a half cup of brown rice 380 calories Swap Out: One cup of vanilla ice cream 290 calories
Swap In: Half cup of vanilla ice cream with one cup of raspberries 205 calories Original daily intake: 1,975 calories New daily intake: 1,560 calories Total daily savings: 415 calories
Dieter's Strategy: Eat diet food
Runner's Strategy: Eat real food
Many dieters walk the aisles of the grocery store feeling more anxiety than pleasure. They want to buy foods that will help them lose weight, provide nutrients, and make it easier to practice portion control--but aren't sure what to choose. So they gravitate toward foods that make those promises, honing in on products that are part of a weight-loss program or feature words like light, low-fat, reduced-calorie, diet-friendly, or low-carb. "People think they need a certain diet program or diet products to be successful," says Elaine Magee, R.D., author of the book Food Synergy, and these foods promise success.
But all too often, the opposite is true, says Magee. Runners can accomplish the same weight-loss goals while eating whole, real foods that taste better, provide more nutritional value, and are more satisfying. "When you go for healthy whole foods," says Joy Bauer, R.D., author of Joy's Life Diet: Four Steps to Thin Forever, "such as lean proteins, boatloads of vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy, you tend to get satiated on the right amounts." That means it will be easier to keep portions under control and gauge how many calories you're taking in. "Many dieters also end up feeling deprived because they think they have very few choices," says Magee. But when you realize that you have a nearly limitless range of healthy, whole foods, that feeling fades away--along with the desire to overindulge.
Sticking to a real-food diet does take a bit more time than pulling out a low-fat frozen dinner entree. But with proper planning, runners can minimize the work. "Stocking your freezer and pantry with healthy staples, like seasonal fruits and whole grains, ensures you have plenty of ingredients on hand," says Magee. "And when you find simple, healthy recipes that work for you, hang onto them," so you'll have ideas for quick meals when you need them. After you've been filling your plate this way for a while, "you'll start to feel empowered," Bauer promises, and that will have a positive affect on your running, your weight loss, and your attitude toward food.
Three Real Meals
Many diet foods are too low in carbs, fiber, or protein, and won't keep you satisfied for long, explains Elaine Magee, R.D., author of the national newspaper column The Recipe Doctor. "This can lead to eating more calories during the day than you otherwise would." Here Magee offers a real, whole foods recipe for each meal of the day in place of a conventional diet choice. "While the recipes are higher in calories than the diet options, they're also more satisfying and will help sustain your energy levels between meals," she says.
Dieter's breakfast: An eight-ounce serving of Odwalla's Strawberry Banana Fruit Smoothie Blend (contains 130 calories, 1 gram of protein, 31 grams of carbohydrate, and 1 gram of fiber)
Why you should pass: Like many smoothies or diet shakes, this one is too low in calories, protein, carbohydrate, and fiber to provide ample energy an athlete (i.e. you) needs in the morning. "Aim for at least five grams of fiber and five grams of protein at breakfast," says Magee.
Real-food breakfast: At 350 calories, the melon mango breakfast smoothie (below) provides a larger portion size and will keep you feeling fuller longer. It packs 9 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 71 grams of carbohydrate.
Melon Mango Breakfast Smoothie
3/4 cup frozen mango chunks 1/2 cup frozen or fresh banana slices 1/2 cup cantaloupe, diced 1/3 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt 1/4 cup vanilla soymilk (or low-fat milk with teaspoon vanilla) 1/4 cup low-fat granola for topping
Place all of the ingredients except granola in a food processor or blender and puree until thick and smooth. Spoon into a dish or glass and sprinkle granola over the top. Serves one.
Dieter's lunch: The Charbroiled Chicken Salad from Carl's Jr. with low-fat balsamic dressing (contains 295 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrate, and 1,190 milligrams of sodium)
Why you should pass: Salads seem like a healthy choice since they're low in calories, but they also tend to be too low in carbohydrate and protein to meet a runner's needs. Plus, the dressing and chicken often pack a lot of sodium--this one contains nearly half your Daily Value.
Real-food lunch: The curried chicken salad sandwich (above) offers interesting flavors and textures and, at 500 calories, is a more satisfying meal. The 53 grams of carbohydrate (including 7 grams of fiber) come mainly from whole grains, and there's plenty of chicken (supplying 43 grams of protein), as well as a more moderate 615 milligrams of sodium.
Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich with Cranberries & Pine Nuts
3 cups skinless chicken breast, shredded 3 tablespoons dried cranberries 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts 1 cup apple with peel, chopped 1/4 cup light mayonnaise 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream 1 tablespoon honey mustard 1 teaspoon ground curry 2 cups spring greens or fresh spinach 8 slices multigrain, whole-wheat, or sourdough bread, or 4 whole-wheat pita pockets
Add chicken, cranberries, pine nuts, and chopped apple to a large mixing bowl and toss together. In another bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, honey mustard, and curry until blended and smooth. Spoon dressing over the chicken mixture and toss to blend. Place cup of greens on the bottom slice of each sandwich; top with 1 cup of chicken salad per sandwich. Place the second slice of bread on top. If using pita, cut each pita pocket in half and fill each half with cup of lettuce and cup of the chicken mixture. Makes four sandwiches.
Dieter's dinner: Healthy Choice Lemon Pepper Fish Entree, which includes servings of rice pilaf, broccoli florets, and an apple dessert (contains 310 calories, 13 grams of protein, 53 grams of carbohydrate, and 5 grams of fiber)
Why you should pass: Diet-conscious frozen entrees are usually low in calories, which isn't good if you're hungry from running around all day. This one includes only about half the grains and vegetables an active runner really needs.
Real-food dinner: The fish fillets with lemon sauce (below) contain 421 calories, 34 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbohydrate, and 9.5 grams of healthy fats. This meal will keep you satisfied into the evening, so you won't be tempted to overindulge in high-calorie desserts.
Fish Fillets with Lemon Sauce
1 pound thin fish fillets, such as sole, halibut, or flounder 1 1/2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs 1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage 2 teaspoons Old Bay 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons water 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons lemon curd 2 tablespoons whole milk 2 cups steamed brown rice 2 cups steamed broccoli
Pat fish fillets dry with paper towels. Set aside. Mix together bread crumbs, sage, and Old Bay. Mix eggs and water in another bowl. Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium-high heat. Dip fillets in the egg mixture; then coat in crumb mixture. Place fish in skillet. Coat the tops of fish with olive oil spray. Flip fillets when brown (about four minutes); brown other side for three minutes. Remove and keep warm. In a small saucepan, gently boil lemon curd and milk over medium heat, stirring frequently. When it forms a slightly thickened sauce, remove from heat (about a minute). Serve the fish over cup brown rice, topped with a tablespoon of sauce and a side of broccoli. Serves four.
Dieter's Strategy: Avoid strength training to keep from adding on pounds
Runner's Strategy: Balance running and strength training
Dieters often shy away from strength training, such as lifting weights, out of a fear it will make them bulk up. Others are intimidated by going to a gym. But for many dieters, the reason is simpler: They know one hour of intense cardio burns more calories than one hour of strength training. If you're pressed for time, it would seem that intense cardiovascular exercise would provide more bang for your buck, leading to a greater weight loss than pumping iron.
Yet the truth is that taking the time to add strength training to your routine a few days a week has a number of unintuitive benefits that can help boost your weight loss. Studies have shown that strength training can improve body composition by helping you maintain or increase your lean body mass and can decrease your percentage of body fat, helping you look leaner and burn additional calories. Here's how it works.
1. Muscle burns more calories: "Fat burns almost nothing at rest," says exercise physiologist Pete McCall, "whereas muscle uses oxygen. If you increase lean muscle mass, you'll increase the body's ability to use oxygen and burn more calories." Your body typically uses about 4.5 to seven calories per pound of muscle every day. If a 160-pound runner with 20 percent body fat increases his muscle mass and lowers his body fat to 15 percent, he'll burn an extra 36 to 56 calories a day at rest--simply by adding muscle.
2. You'll be more efficient: Strength training can help you run faster, longer, and more efficiently. A study published last year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that runners who add three days of resistance training exercises to their weekly program increase their leg strength and enhance their endurance. Obviously, runners with better endurance can run longer--and burn more calories. You'll also be able to recover faster from those long runs because strength training makes your body more efficient at converting metabolic waste into energy. "It's like being able to convert car exhaust into gas," says McCall.
3. You'll be less injury-prone: "If you increase your strength, you'll also increase your joint stability, reducing your risk of repetitive stress injuries," says McCall, citing a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which showed that incorporating moves such as squats, single-leg hops, and ab work into a workout can not only prevent lower-body injuries, but improve performance as well. Leg exercises are particularly important when it comes to reducing injury: These exercises strengthen muscles around the knees and hips--two areas that often cause problems for runners.
Real Runner: Tom Parnell 34, Boston
"In 2007, I was running about 25 to 30 miles a week--that is, until I tore my calf muscle playing flag football and was sidelined for nine months. I replaced running with couch surfing and junk food and, not surprisingly, put on 40 pounds in no time. When I started running again, my knees killed me from all the weight I had put on. So I added a three-days-on-one-day-off strength-training routine to my regimen, focusing on two muscle groups at a time. I believe that lifting weights helped me drop about half of the 40 pounds I eventually lost --plus I got stronger, faster, and have been able to avoid another injury."
Uplifting Tom Parnell stays lean by weight training.
Ready to add strength training into your routine, but pressed for time? Exercise physiologist Pete McCall suggests adding the exercises here to your postrun routine. Start with one session per week and work up to three. Both use a number of muscle groups--plus, they're easy to do and take just a few minutes. "After 16 weeks, your pants size will shrink, you'll have more energy, and you'll be more powerful and efficient," he says.
Squat to Row Strengthens knees, quads, glutes, hips, back, core, biceps
1. Stand two feet from a cable machine set at a weight that's hard but controllable. 2. Holding onto the cable handles with your arms extended, squat down. 3. As you return to standing, pull your hands toward your diaphragm, keeping elbows by your torso. Do two or three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Wood Chop Strengthens hips, quads, glutes, shoulders, back, core
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a five- to eight-pound medicine ball in your hands. 2. Squat down with the ball between your knees, keeping your heels on the floor, sticking your butt out, and not letting your knees go more than a few inches toward your toes. 3. Return to standing, raising the ball overhead, maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Keep your core engaged the whole time, as if bracing for a punch. Do two or three sets of 12 to 15 reps; increase weight of the medicine ball when you can do 15 in good form.
((caption)) Hard Fact After age 30, inactive adults will lose three to five percent of their muscle mass per decade.
Dieter's Strategy: Drop pounds fast by focusing on short-term goals
Runner's Strategy: Lose pounds slowly and have a postloss plan
For many dieters, their sole motivation is to lose weight as fast as possible. Maybe it's for an upcoming college reunion or a desire to look good hanging out by the pool this summer. Either way, the "lose weight fast" strategy often leads dieters down a dangerous path. They slash calories or work out like a fiend to shed pounds as quickly as possible. Then, once they hit their goal weight, they think they're done. They slowly go back to their old habits, and soon enough the pounds start to creep back on.
By avoiding some of these drastic measures, runners can gradually shed pounds and reach their goal weight. But what happens next? "So often we say, 'Hooray, I hit my goal weight. I'm done,'" says Denver-based weight-loss coach Linda Spangle, R.N., author of 100 Days of Weight Loss. "That's the absolute biggest mistake and prevents you from maintaining long-term." Just as you shouldn't stop training once you reach a running goal, keeping the weight off is a daily fight, demanding vigilance and effort. Here's how to address many of the issues that arise while trying to maintain your new body so that 10 or 20 years from now you're still lean, happy, healthy--and running.
1. Keep at it: Most members of the National Weight Control Registry, a group of about 5,000 people who have maintained significant weight losses, continue high exercise levels and some form of a reduced-calorie diet--two principles that got you to your new weight. "You can slowly increase your total calories if you remain very consistent with exercise--but do it gradually," says Spangle, so that you don't risk going overboard.
2. Step on the scale: A 2008 literature review published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity examined the results of several studies on self-weighing and weight gain. The conclusion: People who weigh themselves daily or weekly lose more weight--and keep it off--than dieters who rarely step on a scale.
3. Get support: Finding some social support--from a mentor, friend, or a running group--adds a sense of accountability and helps keep off the pounds. The right kind of Web-based support helps, too. A 2007 study in Obesity showed that an online, therapist-led behavioral weight-loss Web site led to greater weight loss than a self-help commercial site.
4. Mind emotional eating: Eating food for comfort or out of boredom is the number one reason people regain weight, Spangle says. Plus, according to a 2008 Nature study, emotional eating often triggers binges. Austin-area fitness blogger and former trainer Carla Birnberg tells her clients to ask themselves, "Does a bowl of steamed chicken and broccoli sound good?" If the answer is no, you're not hungry for food as fuel.
5. Keep your motivation high: Create a list of the reasons you wanted to lose weight--and keep adding to the list ("I want to be a good role model for my kids"; "I want to feel young"). It helps you remember the lasting pleasures and benefits of slimming down. "It feels so good to be comfortable in your new body," says Joy Bauer, R.D., "even if every day is a bit of a struggle, it's a struggle worth fighting because of the payoff."
Real Runner: Rosemarie Hernandez Jeanpierre 45, Los Angeles
"In 2003, I was 39 years old, and at 5'2" I weighed 220 pounds. I was constantly fatigued and had terrible joint pain and migraines. When my doctor diagnosed me with prediabetes, I knew I had to make some changes. I overhauled my diet and started walking. Over the next six months, I lost 60 pounds; as the number on the scale went down, my energy increased. I picked up the pace and started to run. By 2005, I'd completed my first marathon and reached my goal weight of 110 pounds. Now, I run three to six miles a day, breaking it up into a morning run and a postwork treadmill session, plus weights. There is no doubt running has enabled me to maintain my weight loss. It's an excellent calorie burner, plus, it keeps me mentally active, boosts my energy, and gets me outdoors."
((caption)) On the right path Today, Rosemarie Jeanpierre is at half her heaviest weight and runs dozens of road races a year, often placing in her age group.
Keep it off Research shows that occasionally giving in to cravings can boost long-term weight loss.
Source Citation:Goldman Alter, Leslie. "The runner's guide to weight loss." Runner's World 44.4 (April 2009): 060. Military and Intelligence Database. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 13 Sept. 2009
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