Tips that will help you maintain weight loss
You’ve reached your goal weight for a healthier heart and overall well-being. Now what? At times, it can seem as if it was easier to shed the pounds than to keep them off. These steps can help you set yourself up for weight loss success. Making healthy choices, like eating breakfast and moving every day, is the first step to dropping the pounds and feeling energized.
A little planning ahead can go a long way, as can stocking up on healthy foods so you don’t fall into a comfort-food rut after a long day. The good news is you really don’t have to overhaul your entire eating routine or live at the gym. Plus, it might inspire the rest of your family to get healthier alongside you.
Establish a routine.
Weight control is a long-term process, and it’s important to figure out what strategies work best for you. For example, some people find journaling their food and physical activity helpful, while others find it triggering. You may do better keeping weight off by measuring your food to keep portions under control. Or it may be worth it to have one or two exercise buddies for support. Everyone is different, and there is no one right way to keep the weight off. Tips for improving your diet include:
- Only eat when you are hungry. This could mean 3 meals and 1 snack every day. Or it may mean 5 to 6 small meals throughout the day. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat.
- Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals on purpose does not lead to weight loss. It can make you feel hungrier later on. It could cause you to overeat or make poor food choices.
- Wait 15 minutes before getting a second helping of food. It can take this long for your body to process whether it’s still hungry.
- Try to eat a variety of whole foods. This includes lean meats, whole grains, and dairy. When choosing fruits and vegetables, eat the rainbow.
- Avoid processed foods and foods high in fat or sugar.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Choose no- or low-calorie drinks, like water or unsweetened tea.
Consider your connections to food.
Your recent weight loss may have masked an emotional relationship with food because you were so busy restricting it to get the pounds off. Ask yourself: Do I eat more when I’m stressed, angry, or sad? Research suggests that successful maintainers may be less prone to eating in response to emotions. Find ways to deal with the feelings that cause you to overdo it with food, such as exercise, meditation, and talking to a friend or counselor.
Increase your NEAT.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy used doing everything except sleeping, eating, and exercising. Increasing NEAT contributes to weight maintenance as well as physical fitness and lower blood glucose levels. Try these NEAT tips: Move around for 5 minutes out of every hour; skip the drive thru and go into the store to get food or coffee or food; and take each bag of groceries in the house one at a time. Light house cleaning and yard work count, too! Below are ways to increase your activity and burn calories.
- Add 10 minutes a day to your current exercise routine.
- Challenge yourself. Move from moderate to intense activities. (See chart below.)
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- If safe, park further away or walk to your destination instead of driving.
- Do more household chores, such as dusting, vacuuming, or weeding.
- Go for a walk or run with your dog and/or kids.
- Exercise at home while watching TV.
- Be active on your vacations. Try going for a hike or bike ride.
- Buy a pedometer or activity tracker. This measures how many steps you take each day. Try to increase your daily number of steps over time. (You can buy pedometers at sporting goods stores.) Some experts recommend walking at least 10,000 steps a day.
- Limit time spent online, watching TV, and playing video games. This should equal less than 2 hours total per day.
Practice mindful eating.
Eating satisfaction plays a key role in weight maintenance. Being more mindful of food, which includes dining at a table without distraction, slows down eating and increases feeling of fullness. Include foods that take longer to chew, such as whole and lightly processed fruits and vegetables, which are also lower in saturated fat, salt, and added sugars than ultra-processed foods. Paying attention to the food you eat may decrease cravings for high-calorie foods.
Sleep is key to weight control. Lack of shut-eye can make you hungrier and lead to poor eating choices and a lack of exercise. A recent study found that overweight people who slept about 6 1/2 hours a night naturally reduced their calorie intake by an average of 270 calories a day when they slept for 8 1/2 hours a night. There are tools you can use throughout your weight loss plan. They help to track your progress and reach your goals. These include:
- A pedometer to count your steps (some brands: Fitbit, Garmin)
- A food diary, or journal
- Smartphone apps to record diet and exercise (some apps: MyFitnessPal, Lose It!)
- A measuring tape or scale
- A BMI calculator
You had a few drinks and a plate of loaded nachos. Maybe you enjoyed an ice cream sundae or a burger and fries. That’s OK! Food is delicious, and eating is not cheating. What you do 80 percent to 90 percent of the time is what matters most. Forget about indulging, and never stop trying to eat a nutritious and delicious diet overall.