Tips to Healthy Weight Maintenance

Last week, I discussed health problems related to yo-yo dieting. Not only does weight cycling bang our bodies up, so, too, does it bang up our self esteem. There are, arguably, more emotional downs with a yo-yo diet than physical repercussions.

The key to health is maintenance – keeping the weight off. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cites in a 2005 study that “research has shown that ≈20% of overweight individuals are successful at long-term weight loss when defined as losing at least 10% of initial body weight and maintaining the loss for at least 1 y.” (Wing, Rena R and Suzanne Phelan, Long-term weight loss maintenance, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2005, vol. 82 no.1 2225-2255)

This is, to put it mildly, incredibly discouraging. So to approach weight loss and weight maintenance and gear up for success, we have to begin with a modest, reasonable foundation of habit building instead of get-fit-quick plan. That said, there’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel, as the same study found that long-term weight maintenance had a correlation between habit-changing behaviors. Moreover, the longer the weight stays off, the more likely someone is to keep the weight off.

But how?

I’ve worked as a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist, and personal trainer with experience in the health industry since 1986. Over the years working with my clients I have learned:

My clients who focused on weight loss as their primary goal had great difficulty and usually did not reach their goals.

Those who were willing to change their beliefs about exercise, food, body image, weight, good foods/bad foods, all-or-nothing attitudes do better at achieving their goals.

Those are two global ideas I’m breaking down into my top diet maintenance tips with experiences I’ve had with clients to highlight them. Over the next couple of weeks, I want to share these tips and my clients’ personal experiences. Perhaps they mirror your own.

It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle: Steer clear of the weird stuff. We have a history of weird diets and fads – everything from Lucky Strike Cigarette’s campaign to have dieters reach for a cigarette instead of a sweet to the famous grapefruit diet to the recent HCG Diet. All of these “diets” are extreme and far from the reality of day-to-day life. Instead of helping form habits, they give quick results and leave us with … now what? The closer our weight loss plan is to creating long-lasting habits, the more likely we’ll be to keep the weight off.

party-pastries-448750_1920Understand your Eating Triggers: I had one client who came to me when he was in college. He had a history of soothing himself with food in the evening. He ate primarily packaged convenience foods and was inconsistent with having any kind of exercise/physical activity.He desperately wanted to get to a healthier body weight. We worked together throughout college, graduate school, law school and while looking for jobs. Throughout that time he gained and lost depending on the amount of stress he was going through, but he never gave up. He changed his restrictive/binge behavior and learned to know the emotional and situational triggers that would lead to non-hunger eating. He moved away from the all or nothing “diet” mentality to making small, significant, permanent changes in food. He continued to eat packaged, processed food because during his school days the convenience outweighed the stress of trying to eat perfectly or finding the time to cook. But he ate within the amount of calories his body could handle and so was able to lose weight. Throughout his years in school and while studying for the LSATS he got to the gym consistently because he truly believed in the positive health benefits of getting consistent exercise. He focused on how much more productive his studying was rather than focusing on weight loss.

fruit-671980_1920Get support: Dieting, again, isn’t about jumping on a fad wagon. A healthy diet is something the entire family should be able to participate in. Moreover, consult with a health care professional, whether it be your family doctor, pediatrician or registered dietitian to continue receiving the necessary information and support you need to build long-lasting habits.

Habit-building is the crux to real change and health. Next week, we’ll talk about keeping active and not falling into the numbers trap. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is absolutely possible. I hope these blogs and my experiences show you how!