You've been working really hard at bettering your lifestyle habits, but you've persevered. You feel so much better than the first day you began your weight loss journey, you have more energy, and you're fitting into the clothes you haven't worn in years. You understand the importance of reducing belly fat to prevent heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer, and want your hard work to last a lifetime. The only problem is that you fear the inevitability that, at some point, you'll have the urge to eat the donut at work or stop at McDonalds for a super-sized fry. You begin to wonder how you’re going to be able to keep the weight off permanently.
Starting a new diet and watching the scale drop each week can be exciting, and certainly provides the initial encouragement and motivation to keep up with your weight loss program. Once you reach your goal, however, the excitement fades and the constant pressure from friends, family and the ongoing temptation of junk food is enough to make you stray from a healthy lifestyle.
You're not alone. Research from the Penn State College of Medicine finds that only 1 in 6 people who have been overweight or obese are able to maintain their weight loss. Sustainable weight loss can be a very complicated process – especially if you’re in the “diet mode” mentality, as I call it. Living a healthy lifestyle is not simply about making healthy food choices and engaging in regular physical activity It’s also important to control confounding factors such as stress, mood and lifestyle changes which can cause the pounds to reappear if they are not managed well.
Attitude is Key to Permanent Weight Loss
When excess weight is lost too quickly, our innate survival mechanism takes control of our subconscious mind in an attempt to replace stored fat. This is why slow and steady weight loss is a more realistic and safer way to lose weight for good. While we will no doubt have challenges along the way, we do have the power of mind and attitude which can help us overcome the urge to fall back into old habits. Here are a few key tips to help you keep the weight off for good:
Tip 1: Don’t Skip Meals
Skipping meals is the biggest mistake people make when trying to maintain lost weight. The thought is they’ll avoid the calories and maybe even drop a few more pounds. Our metabolism is quite sophisticated, and will force you to make up the difference and then some through between meal snacking. Long periods of time without eating slow our metabolism down, increases food cravings – especially for carbohydrates and sweets, and will cause you to overeat at your next meal. Plan to eat every 3 hours or so, which will equate to approximately 5 small well- balanced meals each day to keep your metabolism burning efficiently, while reducing the opportunity for a calorie packed junk food splurge.
Tip 2: Weigh Yourself Weekly and Use Clothing as Your Check System
Weigh yourself only once per week on the same day and time, and keep track of the results in a journal. This creates an important awareness of your current weight and allows for adjustments if you have strayed from your healthy habits. Avoid weighing yourself more than once per week, as you don't want to become obsessive about your weight. This is simply a way of keeping yourself in check and reminding yourself of your goal. Instead, pay attention to how you feel. How is your energy level? How is your clothing fitting? If you notice the pounds coming creeping up or the clothing getting tight, begin journaling your dietary intake and physical activity to build self-awareness and enable you to make the necessary changes to get back in control.
Tip 3: Eat a Variety of Foods
It is important that you look at your new habits as a lifestyle – not a diet, which means you must be able to maintain it permanently. By including healthy choices from all food groups, you provide your body with the critical nutrients you need and reduce the likelihood of you wanting to binge between meals. Variety is the spice of life :)
Tip 4: Physical Activity Every Day
Regular exercise must be a natural part of your new lifestyle. If physical activity seems like a chore to you, it is important and critical to find something different that you DO like to do. Remaining active throughout the day should be natural for most people after losing weight, and it is imperative to your permanent success.
Millions of people just like you are trying to lose weight or following a weight loss program at any given time, yet the most alarming fact is that vast majority of them will put the pounds right back on in within the first 1-3 years. We can overcome this setback by adopting a positive attitude and outlook on life, and having a more mindful approach to achieving permanent weight loss. Following these tips and nutrition strategies will be the key to you living a long and healthy life.
Alissa C. Robertson, MS, RD