Congratulations! You’ve reached your goal weight and are rocking a fantastic new body. Bask in the glory of this amazing accomplishment, but don’t hit the all-you-can-eat buffet. While you may have completed the “loss” aspect of your journey, you now need to transition into maintenance mode.
Weight loss is a lifestyle change. Only permanent shifts will result in the maintenance of a healthy body. This is where so many experts and support systems leave us; once the weight is gone, programs finish, coaches sign off and many people are left on their own to struggle through this new terrain.
You are not alone. There are many people out there just like you, enjoying a terrific accomplishment, but needing a bit of guidance for making it permanent. Here are great tips for maintaining your weight loss:
1. Prioritize your sleep.
Studies show that inadequate sleep triggers your body’s desire to consume more calories, your reliance on quick carbs for energy, as well as the increase of appetite-regulating hormones. It’s a recipe for sugar-fueled breakfasts, 3 p.m. energy crashes and late-night snacking. A lack of sleep also impairs your judgment, making it more likely that you will reach for unhealthy foods.
Your body needs between seven and nine hours of sleep a night in order to perform optimally. Make sure this is quality sleep by making your bedroom dark and free of noise or visual distractions (put away those flashy alarm clocks). Be sure to turn off blue-light emitting electronics at least an hour before bed to support your body’s production of melatonin, our natural sleep-aid.
2. Keep stress in check.
Stress can impair your ability to fall asleep, and the quality of sleep you do enjoy. Stress also triggers excess fat storage, particularly around the belly. When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which helps you fight the offender, or flee the stressful situation. This is an ideal response if faced with a predator in the wild; it is not ideal when endured for a long time because of your lifestyle.
Find stress-busting activities that you can enjoy: Exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, walking, sex and time with friends and family (if this is stress-free!).
3. Confront issues in your life.
Unfortunately, many people who struggle with their weight have come to rely on food as a way to soothe them through tough times, and even, as this study found, to deal with past childhood traumas.
Getting in touch with your emotional baggage, and seeking strategies to deal with trauma and stress are important in maintaining weight loss. Seek the help of a professional who can teach you valuable alternatives to eating away your pain.
4. Find a form of exercise you actually enjoy.
All weight-maintenance programs must include exercise and I recommend both cardio and strength training.
For a lot of people, exercise feels like hard work. If time is an issue, it also becomes a commitment that just gets sidelined. The key is to find activities that you love, so you’re less likely to put it off. If you hate running, don’t run. If you love swimming, do that. Music lover? Take a dance class. Discover new and active hobbies and you won’t even feel like you are working out.
5. Plan ahead.
Sundays in my home are cooking days. Since my husband and I both work full time, we prepare a week of lunches and dinners by making food on Sunday that can be refrigerated or frozen for fast meals and snacks. We shop on the weekend, cut up veggies and make fresh fruit easier to consume. I’ll cook grains, mix up hummus, put together trail mixes and make other homemade snacks like granola bars and power balls. In the winter, I’ll make a soup that can serve as easy lunches; in the summer I’ll mix up easy salads.
Always have a snack on-hand to avoid reaching for the wrong foods. I recommend carrying a small baggie of almonds in your purse so that when hunger strikes, no matter where it hits, you always snack smart.
6. Weigh yourself every Monday.
Set your intentions for the week ahead and get back-on-track after the weekend, by weighing yourself at the same time on Monday mornings. I see the most results among my patients when they follow this piece of advice.
7. Keep a daily food diary.
By writing down your food intake, or recording it with the help of any number of available apps, you create a sense of accountability. This study concluded that the simple act of recording what they ate helped dieters lose twice the amount of weight.
And finally, keep reminding yourself of your amazing accomplishment and how good it feels to be at your goal weight. A few moments of indulgence isn’t really worth sacrificing that lasting sense of pride and comfort in your own skin, as well as the good health you have created in losing weight. Make food choices with that in mind and try these other tips.