We struggle with our extra pounds. Some of us head to the gym or watch how much we eat. Many of us lose weight only to gain it back. More than a few of us settle into the sofa and reach for a bag of chips to soothe our guilt at being overweight.
Here's what the experts say works for dieting.
QEat less, exercise more. Doesn't that ensure weight loss?
AWell, yes and no. The converse of that is definitely true: If you eat too many calories and don't burn them up, you'll put on weight.
Some people can lose weight by reducing their portion sizes and becoming physically active. And that's certainly how to prevent weight gain.
But as many dieters have found, the body can adapt to less food by slowing its metabolism. Evolution has programmed us to ward off starvation by storing excess (i.e. fat) for lean times. If a dieter's metabolism is stuck in low mode, weight can creep on even while calories are being cut. Physical exercise, however, is said to increase metabolic rates.
Evolution has had an effect on our eating habits in another way: Most of us eat what's in front of us, even when we're not hungry. Once again, our body prepares for lean days. Regardless, eating less and exercising more is inherently good for most of us.
QDon't all dieters gain back their weight?
Consider Oprah. Even with the kleig lights on her, she gained and lost weight more times than Tina Turner has wigs. Many dieters do gain back weight, often related to that evolutionary quirk that doesn't want us to starve.
But there are dieters who succeed long-term. Look no further than the success stories at the 40-year-old Weight Watchers program.
More successful dieters -- 3,000 in all -- are listed in the National Weight Control Registry, a research project run by James Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado, and Rena Wing, director of the Obesity/Nutrition Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh.
The average weight loss of those listed is 60 pounds, maintained for an average of six years. To register, you need to have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained it for at least a year.
You can register at 1-800-606-6927, or through the Web site at http://www.nwcr.ws, which posts success stories.
The dieters listed in the registry attributed their success to:
Eating low-fat, high complex-carbohydrate diets.
Monitoring their weight frequently.
Being physically active (exercising for about an hour or more a day, expending about 2,800 calories per week on activities -- the equivalent of 28 miles a week, or 4 miles a day.