Expert Q&A: Getting Started With a Weight Loss Plan
An interview with James O. Hill, PhD.
Which commercial diet books, programs, or plans really work? continued...
If you want to lose weight, I don’t think it matters how you do it or what
plan you use. But to keep it off, you will probably have to use different
I co-founded the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks about 6,000
people who have, on average, lost 70 pounds and kept it off for seven years.
What we’re doing is trying to learn how these people manage to do it. What
strategies really work? We’ve found some common factors. People in the Registry
tend to do a lot of physical activity. They tend to eat a low-fat diet and pay
attention to overall calories. They self-monitor: they weigh themselves and
keep periodic food diaries. And they eat breakfast every day.
Do I really need to exercise to lose weight?
No. If you cut way back on your calories, you can lose a lot of weight
without doing a lick of exercise. But you absolutely need to exercise to keep
the weight off. I tell people that if they’re not prepared to substantially
increase their physical activity, they shouldn’t even bother trying to lose
weight. It won’t have any lasting benefit. Exercise is the key.
How much exercise should I be doing?
My recommendation is to shoot for about an hour a day. We’ve found that
people who successfully keep off lost weight tend to exercise for 60 to 90
Now, people will say, “60 to 90 minutes a day? That’s terrible!” But the
people in the National Weight Control Registry have maintained an average
weight loss of 70 pounds. I think a lot of people would say that giving up an
hour a day to keep off 70 pounds is not a bad deal.
The good news is that you can spread out the exercise throughout the entire
day. You don’t have to do it all at once. Most people still have some planned
exercise at a specific time each day. For instance, they take a walk or a bike
ride right after work every day.