Maintaining a weight loss isn’t easy. In fact, it’s harder then losing weight in the first place. Don’t believe me? Think about how many people you know who have gone on a diet and lost weight. Then think about how many of those people gained weight back…sometimes more than they lost to begin with. Exactly.
Of course, weight maintenance isn’t impossible. How hard it is will vary from person to person, based on what’s going on with their own personal biochemistry (in other words, what their levels are of the hormones and othe chemicals that affect hunger, satisfaction after eating, metabolic rate, etc.). For many people, I think a big part of the problem is they are not prepared for the challenge of weight maintenance. They don’t have a plan.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off for the rest of your life, then you have to actively work on maintaining that lost weight for the rest of your life. You can’t just lose weight, say “OK, all done” and expect the weight to not creep or even gallop back onto your body.
I’ve been on both sides (losing and regaining vs. losing and maintaining), so I know how frustrating it is. That’s the main reason I signed up for the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) as soon as I’d maintained my weight loss long enough to qualify. I support any group that is doing any meaningful work to help people maintain a healthy weight for life. So I read with interest last week an article with information from the latest analysis run by the NWCR. How did my personal characteristics match up with those of the “typical” registry member? Let’s see…most members:
- Track their food intake. (I do this off and on. Lately, packing my own food with me and having to carry it around with me all day along with books and my laptop has been a pretty effective means of portion control.)
- Count calorie or fat grams or use a commercial weight-loss program to track food intake. (Again, I use software like Fitday or Sparkpeople off and on, when I’m interested in specifics or really need to quantify my intake for some reason.)
- Follow a low-calorie, low-fat diet. They take in about 1,800 calories a day and less than 30% of calories from fat. (I eat less than this…but then again the “average” listed here would include men, who can eat more calories. I don’t watch my fat intake, because I skew sharply toward healthy fats like nuts, olive oil and avocados and eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit.)
- Eat breakfast regularly. (Yes, I do this…except one day a week when I’m doing intermittent fasting.)
- Limit the amount they eat out. They dine out an average of three times a week and eat fast food less than once a week. (I go beyond this. I ate a not-prepared-at-home meal once last week, and that is my typical frequency.)
- Eat similar foods regularly and don’t splurge much on holidays and special occasions. (Yes and yes. I get a fair amount of variety, but a lot of repetition, too. I am careful about what I consider to be a “special occasion” and work hard to resist turning one day of holiday eating…i.e., Christmas Day…into a three-day eating extravaganza. This gets tricky when I’m visiting family for an extended holiday weekend and there is an extreme shortage of vegetables and an extreme surplus of sugary refined carbohydrates.)
- Walk about an hour a day or burn the same calories with other activities. (You better believe it. I was exercising at least two hours a day before school started. Now, I get about one hour of walking every day, and I fit in about two weight lifting sessions and one yoga DVD each week.)
- Watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week. (TV? What’s TV? I watch about 90 minutes a week…less during the summer.)
- Weigh themselves at least once a week. (I weigh myself daily, with few exceptions. I can generally tell the difference between water weight and real weight, and monitoring myself in this simple way means I can avoid tracking my food intake. If the scale reveals a disturbing trend, then I know to start tracking calories for a while.)
So, will doing these things mean that you’ll keep of the weight? None of these items cause weight loss or weight maintenance, but they are certainly associated with it. All this list means is that successful weight loss maintainers tend to have these characteristics. If you’re struggling with your weight, look at the list and see if it gives you some ideas for changes you can make. I can’t remember who said it, but if you say you don’t have time to exercise, but you can say who won on “Dancing With the Stars”…there’s a problem.