As a registered dietitian in private practice, I’ve spent my career helping clients lose weight and keep it off. My philosophy has always been, “the things you do to shed excess pounds have to be the very same things you do to keep them off”.
That’s why it’s so important that the food plan that you follow to lose weight is a realistic and sustainable one. It should be healthy, balanced and relatively easy to stick to long term. Can you really see yourself drinking protein shakes at breakfast, lunch and dinner for years to come? Or, forgoing bread, pasta and pizza for the rest of your life?
The things you do to successfully lose weight include not only the foods and portion sizes you eat, but also the framework by which you build your meals and snacks. Whether that framework involves counting points, tallying calories, balancing protein and carbohydrate at meals or measuring portions, you will need to continue to do so, at least to some extent, to help maintain your new healthy weight.
Still, you shouldn’t have to do so “obsessively”. Over time you get into a groove that helps you stick to your plan, even after you’ve lost the weight. You build a repertoire of healthy meals and snacks. With practice, you come to know what and how much to eat at meals without laboriously counting points or measuring foods like you did early on. It gets easier.
New habits – eating smaller portions, reading nutrition labels, being assertive with food pushers, etc. – also start to become ingrained the longer you practice them. Your stomach and eyes get used to eating less food too, making it easier to stick to your plan for the long haul. If your diet is too restrictive in calories, however, the temptation to binge will be large, especially when hunger hits.
Maintaining your weight loss requires sticking to your plan 80 per cent of the time, just like you did while losing weight. And to help you do so you need to stay accountable.
Keep in mind that old habits can easily creep back making weight regain a strong possibility. Portion sizes become a little bigger, a few too many “extras” sneak in, you stray from your plan on weekends, motivation wanes for the gym, and so on. It’s reality so it’s best to anticipate and plan for it.
Being accountable provides focus and motivation, keys to getting results. You’ve come too far – and put in too much effort – to lose focus once you have achieved your weight goal. Keep your eye on the ultimate prize: maintaining your weight loss.
6 tips from expert “losers”
The National Weight Control Registry, established in 1994, is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance, tracking over 10,000 individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for long periods of time. Researchers have learned the following strategies have helped them succeed (they may not sound sexy but they’ve worked for thousands of people):
Nearly 80 per cent of study participants reported eating breakfast every day of the week. People who eat breakfast on a regular basis are more likely to have a structured eating plan throughout the day and are less likely to snack on empty calorie foods.
Include healthy snacks
Instead of eating only two or three big meals, weight loss registrants eat more often. Spreading out their food keeps their stomach always partly full and prevents overeating at the next meal. Eat three meals plus between-meal snacks to prevent hunger.
Keep tempting foods out of the house
It sounds so simple, yet that’s what 85 percent of weight loss registrants reported doing to stick to their weight maintenance diet. Almost all say they stock their kitchen with plenty of healthy foods and about one-third say they eat in restaurants less often.
Don’t deprive yourself
People in the National Weight Control Registry don’t give up their favourite foods. They continue to enjoy them, but not as often as they did when they were overweight. Plan for a treat once per week, during weight loss and maintenance.
The majority of participants (91%) exercise regularly to maintain their weight loss. Most combine brisk walking with another type of planned exercise such as cardio classes, biking or swimming. Regular exercise burns calories and motivates you to make wise food choices.
Step on the scale
To succeed at weight maintenance, 75 percent of participants weigh themselves at least once a week, even after years of maintaining their loss. Doing so allows them to catch small weight gains and prevent them from accumulating.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.