Congratulations on your weight loss achievement! Now, let’s focus on maintaining it for the long run. Sustaining weight loss requires a different approach compared to losing weight. Don’t worry, it’s definitely doable. By following the advice of those who have successfully maintained their weight loss for years or even decades, you can make it easier for yourself.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Prioritize Yourself
The key is to find deep-rooted motivation that aligns with your personal values. According to Dr. Scott Kahan, Director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness, your desire to maintain your weight must come from within. Take some time to reflect on what truly matters to you and how your weight connects to those priorities. For instance, you may want to be there for your grandchildren as they grow up or participate in that dream biking vacation you’ve always wanted.
2. Embrace Exercise
While diet plays a significant role in weight loss, physical activity is crucial for maintaining it. James O. Hill, Co-Founder of the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks over 10,000 individuals who have successfully lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for around 5.5 years, emphasizes the importance of regular exercise. It’s a must to sustain your weight loss.
In the registry, most people engage in around an hour of movement each day, and their favorite activity is walking. If the idea of walking for a full 60 minutes feels overwhelming, don’t worry. It’s absolutely fine to split it up into smaller sessions or choose another enjoyable activity, as suggested by Dr. Kahan.
3. Manage Emotional Eating
Many individuals tend to turn to food when they’re stressed. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential to develop new ways of handling your emotions.
Try different approaches to discover what works best for you. For example, you could spend time in your garden, take a walk, release stress (and burn calories) through a vigorous workout, practice calming yoga, or connect with a friend. If you need further guidance, consider seeking support from a counselor experienced in helping individuals overcome emotional eating. They can provide additional ideas and assistance.
4. They Seek Support
It’s beneficial to have some form of support, be it emotional or logistical, to help you stay accountable. Dr. Hill suggests that everyone needs support, so consider joining a group or teaming up with family, friends, or co-workers. Even if you’ve already reached your goal weight, participating in a weight loss support group can be valuable. If you received guidance from a dietitian or other expert during your weight loss journey, it’s a good idea to continue checking in with them occasionally.
5. They Limit Screen Time
Spending excessive time in front of screens (such as tablets, phones, computers, or TVs) often leads to being inactive and overeating. Establish a screen time curfew for yourself, where you limit the amount of time you spend watching or surfing. Did you know that the average American watches 28 hours of TV per week? However, in the National Weight Control Registry, where individuals have successfully lost 30 pounds or more and maintained it for at least a year, 62% of participants watched 10 or fewer hours per week.
6. They Monitor Weight Regularly
Most individuals in the National Weight Control Registry weigh themselves regularly. Research has shown that weighing yourself daily is an effective strategy for weight maintenance. However, it’s not just about weighing yourself; it’s also important to have a plan in place if your weight exceeds your desired level. Dr. Hill advises being prepared to take action promptly if you notice your weight starting to increase. This could involve reducing portion sizes or cutting back on desserts more frequently.
7. They Have Breakfast
Around 80% of individuals in the National Weight Control Registry make sure to eat breakfast. Breakfast alone isn’t a magical solution for weight loss. What truly matters is what you eat throughout the day and your overall calorie balance.
One idea is that having breakfast sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. Start your day with a nutritious meal rather than empty calories. For example, you can enjoy oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts, low-fat yogurt with berries and granola, or an omelet filled with veggies accompanied by whole wheat toast.
8. They Emphasize Fiber
Focus on incorporating fiber-rich foods into your diet. You can find fiber in plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and legumes. Fiber aids in creating a feeling of fullness, reducing the likelihood of overeating later on. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t consume enough fiber.
People who consume an ample amount of fiber, along with engaging in regular physical activity, eating fewer calories, and tracking their progress (such as by weighing themselves regularly or using a pedometer), are more likely to succeed in maintaining weight loss over the long term.