It's an exciting time to have reached your goal weight and feel the benefits of all the effort it took. But as you transition back to normal life, you often realize that your work isn't over. Maintaining weight loss brings a completely new set of challenges. One big difference is that losing weight is short-term, but there's no end date or goal with weight maintenance. You may not know how much to eat or how to deal with cravings, stay on track when socializing and indulging, and overcome setbacks.
Through my own experience with maintaining weight loss, I found that one of the most important aspects of success is to avoid things that trigger previous bad habits like mindless snacking, overeating, and poor food choices. It's much easier to maintain than to fall behind and have to catch up. Below are some common triggers to avoid for successful weight management:
1. Stay away from addictive foods.
You know how if you have just one cookie, you'll end up wanting the whole tray? And how one chip quickly leads to mindless munching? Many common foods are addictive, meaning they create a more pleasurable reward signal in the brain—causing strong cravings and weaker self-control that make us overeat and choose those foods over healthier options. Foods made with1 refined carbohydrates, (including sugar and flour, bread, baked goods, cereal, granola bars, and sweets) and foods that are processed (like plain or flavored chips and crackers) and commercially fried foods are all included on the list of addictive foods.
Addictive foods are often unsatisfying, so the more you have, the more you'll want. Avoiding these foods can help you stick to healthier eating habits that align with your weight maintenance goals. Another positive of avoiding processed foods and refined carbohydrates is that healthy foods will start to taste better. If you aren't comparing these foods to healthy foods, you can better appreciate and enjoy the subtle flavors and textures of healthier options.
2. Be mindful of alcohol.
A night of drinking with friends after a stressful day or week is fun but isn't a healthy habit—especially if you're trying to lose weight or maintain your weight loss. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and your self-control, so you'll likely eat foods you would avoid otherwise and in larger portions.
But don't despair; alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle, in moderation and with meals. If you drink more than that, it can trigger overindulging throughout the night and less-than-healthy "hangover foods" the next day—which won't help you stay on track. If this happens often, it can be detrimental to your maintenance efforts. It's best to set limits with yourself for how frequently you go out for drinks and how much you drink at one time. Sharing your limits with supportive or like-minded friends and slowing your pace can help you stay on track while still living in the moment.
3. Evaluate your relationships honestly.
Ask yourself if the people you spend time with help you stay on track. It might not take you long to identify the friend who pressures you to overindulge with them and a few "toxic" people in your life who bring you down, aren't supportive, and make you feel stressed, which in turn makes it harder for you to stay on track.
It's nearly impossible to rid your life of all these types of relationships, but it helps to be aware and avoid situations that cause frequent setbacks that are difficult for you to overcome. Try to grow new friendships with people that are supportive and like-minded. You can even join forums, social media groups, workout classes, and other groups that are of interest to you.
Weight-loss maintenance is for life.
It's important to find the right balance between indulging—so you don't feel deprived—and healthy, sustainable habits so that you can maintain your weight loss. You may have other factors that trigger you to revert to old habits; it's important to be aware of them and make a plan to overcome them to achieve long-term success. If you struggle with maintaining weight loss, check out this guide and learn simple tips that will help you stay motivated, eat less (without feeling deprived or counting calories), and enjoy life in your leaner, healthier body.
Kate Martino is a physician's assistant who is passionate about healthy and vibrant living. She received her master’s in physician’s assistant studies from Pace University. Martino specializes in health and diet education, finding balance and joy in healthy habits, controlling cravings and appetite, maintaining motivation and strategies to stick with it for life. You can get started here or learn more on her website.