Eyebrow-raising new research from the British medical journal The Lancet showed that Weight Watchers is more effective for weight loss than standard treatment from your family doctor. But you don't need to belong to Weight Watchers-or any commercial program-to benefit from the secrets behind the plan's success, according to obesity expert and Prevention advisor David Katz, MD. Make these 5 things central to your own healthy lifestyle and you'll see the pounds come off, whether you join a formal program or not.
1. Find a Community: Weight Watchers' meetings, where members swap stories and support, are effective at maintaining motivation over the long haul, says Dr. Katz. Build your own network of likeminded friends and family, and check in once a week (online or in person) to trade tips and cheer each other on. (Looking for weight loss groups and advice on shedding pounds?)
MORE: Try these exercise routines you can do at home to torch fat and calories. Or, watch this video showing an easy 15 minute living room workout.
2. Use a System: "Weight Watchers' Points are easy to use, but it isn't the only way to make good food decisions," according to Dr. Katz. He recommends using something like the USDA's new My Plate icon as guide instead of counting calories, which doesn't factor in good nutrition.
3. Track Your Progress: "Recording your weight each week makes you more aware of your food choices," says Dr. Katz. You don't need to pay a membership fee to keep a weekly date with your bathroom scale. (Try our free online FitTracker to monitor weight loss, keep an exercise log, and manage goals and expectations). Make reporting weigh-ins part of what you do with your support group to keep yourself honest.
FREE: Get on the Fast Track to a Flat Belly with these easy, effective workout plan.
4. Build a Toolkit: Weight Watchers has stuff: a website, calculators, recipes, books and packaged foods. "Collateral on that scale provides support where the rubber meets the road-it helps you stay on track," says Dr. Katz. Decide what is your source for healthy recipes and workouts (may we suggest Prevention.com) and get a pedometer or heart rate monitor if that's what will keep you motivated. (Subscribe to Prevention magazine today for 80 percent off the cover price and get a free pedometer).
5. Follow Your Leader: Weight Watchers meetings are usually led by charismatic lifetime members with inspiring stories to share with the group, but there is probably someone in your own life who has lost weight and kept it off long term. Ask them for their mentorship-most people are flattered to you believe there's a lot to learn from them. (Share your weight loss succes stories with us on Facebook).