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Keep the pounds off even after the beach season has come and gone

Controlling portion size is one way to lose weight and keep the pounds off once they've been shed.

While that might be human nature, it's also a waste of all that presummer effort. Keeping fit through the winter and into next beach season doesn't have to be so difficult. In fact, the National Weight Control Registry, who tracked men and women who lost 60 pounds and kept if off for at least five years, discovered some interesting things about those who weren't satisfied with just losing weight but wanted to keep that weight off as well.

Among the notable things they found about the people they tracked:

  • 78 percent start their day off right, eating breakfast every day
  • 75 percent aren't scared of the scales, weighing themselves at least once a week
  • 90 percent exercise an average of one hour per day
  • 62 percent watch fewer than 10 hours of television per week

These behaviors should not come as a surprise. Eating breakfast every day revs up the metabolism after a night of rest, and a breakfast that's rich in protein is more likely to make you less hungry in the hours before lunch. Also, daily exercise at the expense of time spent on the couch is clearly beneficial. And

the motivating power of routine weigh-ins should not be underestimated, either.

But there are other things men and women can do to keep from packing winter weight back on once beach season is a thing of the past.

Lift weights. Men and women might think lifting weights is for young people, but pumping iron can help combat muscle tissue loss that typically begins when a person is in his or her thirties. Muscle burns roughly three times more calories than fat, so this reduction in muscle tissue as you age makes it harder to keep weight off. Fight this loss of muscle mass by strength training with hand weights. Hand weights help build muscle and strengthen bones, and the less muscle you lose the more capable your body will be at burning calories.

Subscribe to portion control. Portions have increased dramatically over the years. Consider the case of the average bagel, a breakfast favorite. According to the National Institutes of Health, 20 years ago the average bagel was three inches in diameter and 140 calories. Today, the average bagel checks in at six inches in diameter and 350 calories. The NIH?also notes that 20 years ago a plate of spaghetti and three small meatballs was 500 calories, while that same meal today is more than 1,000 calories. But men and women who control their portions are much more likely to keep lost weight off than those who don't control portions. Tricks to portion control can include buying prepared meals or even buying smaller dishes. Whatever the method chosen, if the portions are smaller you're likely to be smaller as well.

Spend more time being physically active. In a survey sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency that examined activities undertaken by the average woman over the age of 18, driving, watching television and office work were three of the four activities women spent the most time on. In fact, exercise did not even land in the top 10. Though these responses don't reference how men spend their time, it's safe to assume both men and women can spend more time being active and less time on more sedentary activities. For example, if it's possible to ride a bicycle to work instead of drive a car, dust off the bike and leave the car in the garage.