by Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE
When someone has been on a diet and lost weight, the key question becomes how to transition back to “real life” while still maintaining success… how to do just that is what this article will cover.
If the weight was lost by developing healthier eating habits instead of going on a drastic crash diet, that makes the maintenance phase much easier. Then it becomes a question of keeping up with all the good habits started and hopefully adopted during the weight loss phase and establishing a “new normal” for the future. Stay focused on eating vegetables and fruits, lean protein, higher fiber foods and plant based oils to help you feel full. The main difference now will be, you can eat a little more. And for most people, it is just a little more… maybe 200-300 calories a day. There are some habits (like drinking a liter of soft drinks a day) that you can never go back to. And maintaining your exercise routine is critical!
Researchers have studied what makes “successful losers” – people who have lost more than 30 pounds and kept it off for over 5 years. We’ve looked at the data at what these people have in common and developed these 10 tips…
Know your PMR. Having a Personal Motivating Reason to make and maintain lifestyle changes is important. Maybe it’s for your grandchildren. Maybe it’s so you can always be as flexible as you want to enjoy gardening. Think about your PMR and keep it top of mind. It will help keep you on track.
Know that it is hard. Re-gaining some of the weight lost is a common phenomenon. The reason is that there are powerful internal and biological forces that seem to work against you. As you lose weight, your metabolism slows and your appetite increases! But know that weight maintenance is possible keeping by keeping up with some (or all!) of these tips.
Maintaining Weight Loss. This is probably the single most important thing you can do to maintain weight loss. Studies of successful losers have found they maintain the same level of exercise as they had during their weight loss phase… or even increase it a little. That’s why finding something you enjoy is so important!
Keep up the healthy habits. During your weight loss phase, you’ve been eating “mindfully” (paying attention to your food, eating slowly, avoiding distraction), you’ve been keeping tempting foods out of sight, you’ve shaped your environment to help make exercise easier and overeating harder (keeping sneakers by the door and using a smaller plate). Keep the 80-20 rule in mind (healthy choices 80% of the time, and allow room for treats now and then!) All of these still apply!
For those who pay attention to calories, there is a helpful tool that can tell you how many calories you’ll need for weight maintenance called the “Body Weight Planner” (link below).
Keep up the planning. Planning your meals. Shopping from a list. Doing meal prep in the beginning of the week. All of these are habits you worked on during the weight loss phase that still apply.
Don’t skip meals. Successful losers generally start the day on the right track with breakfast. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. Some people have found success by continuing to limit choices during the maintenance phase by always having the same breakfast or having a meal replacement shake or a calorie-controlled frozen meal for lunch.
Keep on tracking. Most successful losers weigh themselves daily. Don’t panic over a pound or two, as fluctuations are common, but this way you can catch trends early. If you found writing down what you eat in a food diary (or recording food in an app) during the weight loss phase, do that for one week a month just to make sure you’re still on track.
Know your numbers. Certainly, tracking your weight is important. But your weight is not the only measure of your health… and it may not be the most important one. Keeping other measures in target such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose measures are equally (if not more!) important. Even if your weight goes up a little but these numbers are in goal range, then you’re doing well!
Talk with your doctor. Share your success. Let your doctor know what you think contributed to your success with weight loss. Often medicines may need to be adjusted if you’ve lost weight (especially if you have diabetes) so make sure you’re keeping your healthcare provider in the loop.
Seek ongoing support. Maintaining weight loss is hard. Seek help and support from your doctor. Check in periodically with a dietitian or the team that may have helped you with the weight loss phase. Stay involved with communities such as through your local fitness center or online (such as this one!) Remind your family and loved ones about ways they can be helpful. While you may not longer be on a “diet” – you’ve adopted healthy eating patterns for life and you will benefit from their continued support and understanding.
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