Have you been successful in losing weight only to find it to be an insurmountable challenge to keep it off? You’re not alone! Studies say that only about 1 in 5 people are successful at maintaining their healthy weight. Just because this is the norm doesn’t mean that you’re doomed. In fact, we can learn a lot—including how to get and stay slim—from the people who have succeeded in keeping weight off.
Here are five ways you can avoid regaining weight and keep off what you lost for good.
5 Keys to Maintaining a Healthy Weight
1. Permanent Weight Loss Requires Lifestyle Change
Without changing the habits that caused you to initially gain weight, you’ll never be able to keep off weight permanently. That is, if you go back to doing what you’ve always done (for instance, eating calorie-dense processed food or leading a predominantly sedentary lifestyle), you’ll end up right back where you started: feeling tired, overweight, and out of shape.
Clearly, something’s gotta give. What’s the solution?
The solution is to change your lifestyle by practicing healthy behaviors and adopting those as long-term habits. In other words, maintaining a healthy weight is not a temporary fix. The good habits (like making good food choices, eating in the appropriate amounts, exercising regularly, hydrating properly, getting plenty of sleep, practicing stress management, and garnering social support) that get you to where you want to be need to become a way of life.
2. Identify Your Triggers
There is often a catalyst that leads to poor food choices and eating behaviors. It can be tremendously helpful if you’re able to identify these “triggers” in advance and then plan solutions. For example, after a long day at work, when you’re hungry, tired, and stressed out, you may be inclined to reach for junk food. What’s your plan of attack?
- Have a healthy snack available (such as Greek yogurt or veggies and hummus or dip).
- Remove junk foods from the house; out of sight, out of mind!
- Take a walk.
For some people, it may be as simple as “changing your path.” For instance, if you walk from the garage through the kitchen as soon as you get home (which leads to you eating a bag of chips), then trying walking through the front door instead. If you pass your favorite fast food joint on your normal way home, give your will power a break and take an alternate route.
You get the picture. For every obstacle you encounter, try to come up with a solution or two that will help you stay on track. Along those lines, shape your “food environment” so that it’s consistent with your goal of maintaining a healthy weight. In other words, have healthy foods convenient and readily available; on the other hand, make unhealthy foods unavailable and inconvenient.
3. Use a Food Journal
A food journal can be a helpful tool to keep off weight you’ve lost. One of the most common reasons people stop losing weight—and start gaining—is due to something researchers call “intermittent lack of diet adherence.” In other words, folks start loosening the reins, so to speak, and they don’t stick to their nutrition plan quite as diligently.
You might start sneaking in a few extra bites or a snack here and there. Or, you may eat mindlessly while watching television. These calories add up, and they can add up quickly. Keeping a food journal—even for just a week or two—can help raise awareness and give you keen insight into why you may be backtracking.
One fix is to try an app on your phone. Not only are these handy, but they make it quick easy and convenient for you to measure and track your food, and with some apps, even your workouts, sleep, daily steps and more. Here are a few for you to check out:
- My Fitness Pal
- Lose It
- My Plate
4. Keep Track of Your Weight and Measurements
A very important question that we often ask coaching clients is, “How’s that working for you?” If you’re not tracking progress, then there’s no way to objectively answer that question. In other words, you can’t tell what’s working or what’s not working.
Think about professional sports … they track everything. Then, they use this feedback to improve. Again, you can use one of the above apps, or if you’d rather make your own chart, start an excel spreadsheet on your computer. You can even go old-school and track your measurements with pen and paper. It doesn’t really matter how you track your progress, it just matters that you do.
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is a research study that includes adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year. The purpose of the NWCR, which has over 10,000 members, is to gather information about the habits of successful weight-loss maintainers. According to the NWCR, 75% of members weigh themselves at least once a week.
Peter Drucker, management pioneer and aficionado, said it best, “What gets measured, gets improved.” You want to improve yourself? Stay accountable and stay vigilant—for the long term—and watch how far you can come.
Kick-start Your Weight Loss:
5. Keep Up Your Active Lifestyle
To get to your goal weight, you were regularly hitting the gym, taking walks outdoors, regularly taking the stairs, and parking in the farthest spot from the building. Now, you have to …Keep doing what you’ve been doing!
According to the Global Healthy Weight Registry, which provides additional insight of the habits of folks who maintain a healthy weight, 90% of people who stay slim exercise at least twice a week. Data from the NWCR tells us that 90% of the members exercise, on average, about 1 hour each day. Not only that, 62% of NWCR members report watching less than 10 hours of TV each week.
How to Maintain a Healthy Weight
So, let’s review. What will it take to keep off the weight you’ve worked so hard to lose?
- New You, New Lifestyle— This isn’t something you’re just doing for a few months. The new habits you’ve picked up along the way will keep you successful long-term.
- Don’t Trip Your Triggers— Identify your “triggers,” which may be people, places, or events, and make sure you have strategies!
- Keep Yourself Honest— If you bite it, write it.
- Step Up to the Scale— At least once a week, step on the scale for accountability.
- Stay Active— Last but not least, keep moving. You worked hard to achieve your new body—enjoy your new-found freedom!
Following these five tried-and-true simple lifestyle changes will help you to not only lose the weight, they will help put you on cruise control in maintenance mode.