Ask anyone who has struggled to lose 10, 20 or 50 pounds: Losing weight is tough. And keeping it off can be even more difficult. To find out how the “biggest losers” succeed, the National Weight Control Registry identified about 5,000 people who had lost an average of 72 pounds and kept off at least 30 pounds over time. The success formula was universally the same. 

Count calories. The most successful dieters ate a low-fat, low calorie diet to drop the weight. This includes restricting certain foods, limiting quantity, and counting calories and fat grams.

Move it. More than 90 percent of the study participants exercised regularly, averaging the equivalent of a one-hour brisk walk daily.

Eat breakfast. They ate breakfast every day. The most common breakfast is cereal with fruit.

Weigh-in. Most study participants, 75 percent, weighed themselves at least once a week; about 60 percent weigh-in every day.

Stay the course. To maintain their weight loss, participants kept up the behavior they adopted to lose the weight. And they stayed vigilant: If they recognized they were slipping back into old habits they acted immediately to stem further weight gain.

No right way. The researchers discovered that no one weight-loss strategy worked 100 percent of the time: The strategy was only as effective as the motivation to use it. The most common motivating factor for successful losers was concern for their health and hitting an all-time-high weight.

—Medical News Today