It’s hard enough to lose weight, but often keeping the weight off is an even bigger challenge. Clients will report to me their frustrating history of losing weight, then gaining it back again. Each successive yo-yo cycle makes it harder to lose.
To help you break out of this cycle, here are some of my best ways to keep the weight off once you’ve lost it:
1. Remember that food isn’t what you’re craving.
Often the stresses of work or daily life will trigger cravings for junk food. Stress eating is a surefire way to regain any weight that you’ve worked so hard to lose. To avoid stress eating, you’ve got to remember that it’s not food you’re really seeking in stressful times.
People often habitually reach for sugar or junk food when they’re feeling stressed. They do this because they’re using food as a distraction. When uncomfortable feelings arise, it’s all too easy to distract yourself from them by eating instead of feeling uncomfortable.
The key to retraining this habit is to figure out what you really want.
If you’re feeling stressed, what you probably want is a feeling of peacefulness or a feeling of being in control. Sugar can’t give you that.
If you’re feeling lonely or misunderstood, what you want is connection and love. Junk food won’t give you that.
Get the idea?
Figure out what you really want with the magic wand image: “If I could wave a magic wand and feel any way that I wanted to, what would I choose?”
Once you decide how you want to feel, you can start making decisions and actions to get there. Covering up the uncomfortable feelings for a few minutes with dessert will not get you what you want!
2. Accept that 80% of weight loss is nutrition.
Exercise is great, and it’s necessary to be healthy. But most of your weight loss (or weight GAIN) comes from how you feed yourself. Choice after choice, day after day, your series of ongoing nutrition decisions determine how lean or how overweight you are. You cannot out-exercise a marginal diet! Even if you’re spending 5 hours a week burning calories at the gym, making poor nutrition decisions will get you going in the wrong direction.
3. You must eat on purpose, not reactively.
We often have to battle between our reactive, immediate-gratification mind and our rational mind. When you’re hungry, stressed, or tired, it’s harder to make good choices. You don’t have to follow your healthy eating plan 100% of the time, but the chances of you losing weight (and keeping it off!) are dramatically increased when you have a plan in the first place.
I teach my clients to plan their food every day, so that healthy food is easy and readily available. Planning ahead makes it easy to make good choices!
4. All-or-nothing thinking will destroy your progress.
You can’t expect to stick to a plan that you can’t sustain for the long run. And trying to change everything at once inevitably leads to willpower failure and total defeat.
Before you start any weight-loss program, ask yourself, “Can I see myself eating like this five years from now?” If the answer is No, then the diet you’re planning to start isn’t going to work.
The key to keeping your weight off is to develop sustainable habits that become normal.
- Planning your eating for the day.
- Choosing vegetables instead of processed carbs.
- Eating protein and drinking water to help keep sugar cravings away.
- Recognizing your emotional triggers instead of reactive stress eating.
These are the kinds of habits that create sustainable weight loss.
I work with clients to create baby steps towards success. Daily ‘small wins’ add up to major successes. What one or two changes can you make this week that will start moving you towards your goals?
5. Recognize hunger vs habit.
A big reason that people gain weight is eating for external reasons:
- Emotional eating.
- Habits that lead to overeating, like always cleaning your plate or always reaching for seconds.
- External cues like eating just because other people around you are eating.
So when reaching for food, pause and ask yourself Why. Are you actually hungry? Are you trying to change the way you feel? Are you reaching for food “just because”? Double-checking yourself will allow you to catch yourself if you’re about to eat for emotional or external reasons.
6. Plan your treats and indulgences.
Healthy nutrition doesn’t mean NEVER eating anything that’s not good for you. Treats are pleasurable, and you can certainly work in some of your favorite unhealthy foods, as long as you do it sensibly and do it on purpose.
If you know there’s a birthday party next week, and you know you’re going to want some cake when you’re there, plan that in advance. Have a reasonable portion, enjoy it, and then be done with it. Don’t tell yourself “OK, I guess today’s Cake Day,” and plow through 4000 calories of sugar before you’ve even tasted it.
Always. Eat. On. Purpose. Even when it’s “junk food.”
A colleague of mine has a rule – any indulgence should pass the “Will I remember this in two weeks?” test. I like it.
If you’re not being mindful, most of the indulgences you eat won’t be remarkable—they’re bags of chips or boxes of stale leftover cookies that you’ve eaten just because they were there. Be purposeful, and enjoy your intentional treats!
If you want some help with any of this, contact me and we’ll set a time to talk.