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5 Secrets of the 5%

What You Can Learn from Successful Dieters
  -- By Mike Kramer, Staff Writer

More elusive than Bigfoot, more mysterious than the alien residents of Area 51—they’re so anonymous, we’re tempted to ask "do these people actually exist?" I’m here to tell you that YES they do exist. You may even know one or two.

They’re the legendary 5% of people who have lost weight and actually kept it off for the long-term. If you’ve never met one these people before, don’t be surprised. They prefer to stay relatively unknown. Having discovered the prized secret to a healthy lifestyle, they tend to enjoy their status and privacy.

But what about the other 95% of us who have struggled with weight loss and continue to do so? Are we doomed to a life of frustration and failure, with no promise of good health in sight?

Of course not! At SparkPeople, I’ve witnessed a lot of these 5%ers in action. I wondered, what do they do differently than the rest of us? After a non-scientific review, I was able to boil it down to a handful of key strategies and tactics that are pretty common among people who succeed. For the first time, their secret is out. The doors are blown off. Join me in exploring these secrets and use them in your own life. Pretty soon, you can be part of this group too.

The 5%…

  1. …Make It Public. The 5% generally don’t keep their weight loss efforts to themselves. They recruit supporters. They ask for help. They swap war stories with friends. They give and take encouragement. Often a goal buddy is involved, or at least a positive, supportive friend who holds the dieter accountable. Studies show that just by writing down or announcing your goals, you automatically increase your chances of success. Keeping a Community Journal or blog is a non-threatening, productive way to make your goals public.
     
  2. …Pay Attention. A permanent, healthy lifestyle is created on purpose. Planning, tracking, reading menus, asking questions, following progress reports—they’re all part of the 5% strategy of knowing what’s going on and preventing setbacks. This crowd doesn’t believe in fooling themselves or relying on chance to make things happen. Usually (if not always) aware of the foods they eat, and on the lookout for opportunities to stay active, they know that good health is no accident. Nutrition Trackers and Fitness Planners play key roles in this strategy.
     
  3. …Enjoy Themselves. There’s a reason that a healthy lifestyle sticks around for this small minority. They make weight loss a positive experience and have fun with it. Because they feel good about their goals and their new habits, they also feel good about themselves and what they’ve accomplished. Programs based on negative messages, dread, resignation, or criticism are doomed to disappear. Optimists are proven to reach more goals than pessimists. They also live healthier, longer lives.
     
  4. …Make Gradual Changes. The 5% know that permanent change is a process, not a 21-day event. Able to see what waits on the horizon, they spend time building a few small habits at a time, rather than diving into a program that’s totally incompatible with their current lifestyle. Too much too soon is like moving to a new country and expecting to adopt the new culture and language in a week. It works much better if you simply stick around and pick up a few bits and pieces at a time.
     
  5. …Allow Themselves To Fail. It’s a guaranteed certainty. Every one of the 5% has failed at some point along their weight loss journey. The difference is that they learned to forgive setbacks and refused to beat themselves up. Every failure is simply one step closer to ultimate success. With this outlook, and using lessons learned along the way, they kept these setbacks from turning into full-fledged disasters.

Not so mysterious, now that you know their secrets, huh? A permanent, healthy lifestyle may be closer than you think!