Keeping the Weight Off

What habits are associated with a lower likelihood of weight gain over time?

It is clear that certain dietary and exercise habits contribute to our likelihood of weight gain. In a prospective study following hundreds of thousands of non-obese, healthy nurses’ diet and exercise patterns over 12-20 years, several statistically significant associations arose.

Dietary habits particularly associated with long-term weight gain:

  • consumption of potatoes (largest magnitude of effect)
  • sugar sweetened beverages
  • red meat consumption

Dietary factors associated with long-term weight loss:

  • eating various nuts
  • incorporating whole wheat
  • yogurt consumption
  • consumption of fruits and veggies

Other lifestyle factors:

  • people who exercised had much less weight gain
  • those that slept less than 6 h per night or more than 8 h per night had more weight gain
  • excess television time was associated with greater weight gain

Findings from the Look AHEAD trial agree with these points. Specifically, people who maintained their weight loss tend to:

  1. continue to exercise even after a goal weight was achieved
  2. continue to attend sessions with health care providers
  3. And finally, not surprisingly, tended to eat less calories.


  1. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. “Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Men and Women.” NEJM. June 2011. 364:2392-404.
  2. Wadden, T et al. Four Year Weight Losses in the Look AHEAD Study: Factors Associated with Longterm Success. Obesity. 2011 October ; 19(10): 1987–1998.