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1,800 calories, 4 miles keep the weight off



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LAS VEGAS -- People who have lost weight and manage to keep it off limit their daily calories to about 1,800 and walk about 4 miles a day, according to a new study.

These findings are the latest look at the experiences of newer members of the National Weight Control Registry, a group of about 5,000 people who lost an average of 73 pounds and kept off at least 30 pounds for more than six years. The results were presented this week at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, conducted in collaboration with the American Diabetes Association.

Researchers have found that registry members dropped their extra pounds in different ways, but generally they keep the weight off by exercising regularly, consuming a relatively low-calorie and low-fat diet, weighing themselves regularly, having breakfast daily, eating in a consistent way and keeping track of what they eat.

To see if diet and exercise have changed over time, experts examined responses from about 2,700 enrollees from 1995 to 2003 and discovered that they:

* Report eating an average of about 1,376 calories a day. But adjusting for typical underreporting on calorie consumption, researchers say the participants probably eat about 1,800 calories a day.

* Get about 29.4% of their calories from fat, which is considered relatively low, 49.3% from carbohydrates and 21.3% from protein.

* Burn about 2,620 calories a week through physical activity, mainly by walking. That means they expend about 374 calories a day this way.

Walking 1 mile burns roughly 100 calories depending on the height, weight and pace of the walker.

Members also did other activities, including weight lifting, cycling, aerobics, running and using a treadmill or stair climber.

There has been an increase in recent years in the number of people who report eating a low-carbohydrate diet, which reflects current diet trends, says Suzanne Phelan, assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown Medical School in Providence.

''To lose weight, they used a variety of different methods, but to keep it off, they are doing similar things,'' she says. ''They have restructured their lives and made maintaining their weight a priority.

''They are very attentive to their weight on a daily basis. They spend a lot of time being active.''

James Hill, one of the founders of the registry and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, says this amount of activity is ''doable. Four miles is 8,000 steps. You start slowly and work your way up.''

To learn more about the registry or to sign up to be a participant, go to www.nwcr.ws or call 800-606-6927.

To see more of USAToday.com, or to subscribe, go to http://www.usatoday.com

© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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