Statistics show that 95% of people who diet regain the weight they lose. How do you make this time the last time? How do you stop the yoyo?
I'm on my third major weight loss. The first couple times I lost about 40 pounds, this time I lost 75. I don't want there to be "another time," I want this time to be the last. I've kept the weight off for about a year now. I'm determined to draw upon lessons I've learned along the way and to draw upon the wisdom of others.
When you're in your weight-loss mode, regardless of how fast you're progressing, you're progressing. You notice changes, you see the scale slowly drifting down, others start to notice and comment. You can see your feet again, your clothes become loose and perhaps you even need a new wardrobe. Life is exciting. What could possibly go wrong?
Possible reasons for regaining weight
Obviously it is critical for you to do some self-reflection and determine what your particular challenge might be, then determine a plan to address it. This post will give you some good ideas to consider.
Why all diets are bad
Yoni Freedhoff, author of The Diet Fix says:
For at least the past 100 years (and likely many more), dieting has been synonymous with suffering. It’s been “die” with a “t,” where adherents to diets have been instructed to either suffer through hunger and cultivate the skill of white-knuckled willpower, or to consider food to simply be fuel and deny themselves either the dietary indulgences they love the most or eliminate entire food groups.
So really no surprise whatsoever when studies of wholly impersonal diets, diets often far lower in calories than would be enjoyable for a lifetime, or replete of foods or food groups that adherents enjoyed, fail. The more weight a person wants to permanently lose, the more of their lives they’ll need to permanently change, so go figure that weight lost through suffering comes back – who among us is willing to suffer forever more with something as important to the human condition and culture as food?
Stop dieting and start eating
What's the solution? One key thing that I came to understand as I lost my weight was that I wasn't "on a diet." But I also refused to suffer, deprive myself of foods that I love and adopt some kind of eating plan that I couldn't maintain for the rest of my life. Can I eat ice cream? Yes. Pizza? Of course. I can have whatever I want, there are no forbidden foods, but that doesn't mean I can eat as much as I want whenever I want it. I choose to eat healthy, wholesome food that makes me feel good and fits within my daily caloric and macronutrient goals. And because I eat that way 90% of the time, once in a while when I feel like having something less healthy I can have it.
But back to that "healthy, wholesome" food concept. When you saw that I'm sure you saw images of kale, brussel sprouts, Greek yogurt, and lima beans (or something like that). Well I'm here to tell you that it's possible to eat healthy and enjoy it. How is that possible? Well, let's see. When I'm out at a restaurant with my wife and want to splurge, I get sirloin and shrimp with a salad. Healthy? Yes. Tasty? Very. Satisfying? Yes. Well, what about on a daily basis, can you eat healthy and enjoy it every day? Of course. You just need to look at the list of possible foods and choose the ones that are both healthy and satisfying to you. Your own preferences will vary from mine, but my daily food looks something like this:
Yes, that's a lot of food. And I can eat this way for the rest of my life because I don't feel deprived, I'm eating healthy foods that I enjoy and I'm not starving myself.
This list might not look appetizing to you, and frankly it wouldn't have looked completely appetizing to me when I started, but it didn't look too bad either. It's ok to take baby steps. Start substituting healthier items for less healthy ones. Over time you get used to the new foods and you don't really miss the old ones. And yes, you can still splurge and have whatever you want once in a while.
It's not about what you can't have, it's about what you can have.
You do need to gradually wean yourself away from sugar and processed foods. You do need to understand the fat loss equation so that you know how to control your weight.
This post has a lot of great ideas for maintaining weight successfully.
Hard work and consistency
Another general principle I'd like to stress is the principle of hard work and consistency. Here are some thoughts from some of my friends over at the 52 Day Challenge:
When you are successfully losing weight, you are getting all of this positive feedback. You are looking at the scale and seeing the number go down, you grab that roll of fat and realize there's a lot less to grab, you look down and can see your feet, your pants fall off of you and you have to buy new ones, the doctor shows you your numbers and they are improved in a huge way, your coworkers friends and family tell you how great you look. Then you hit your goal and you look in the mirror and look the same from day to day. You get on the scale and see the same numbers. The compliments come less frequently because you are no longer changing physically and people don't comment as much. I can see how people could feel like they lose their motivation after losing weight. They are not getting all of that positive reinforcement anymore, or at least not as frequently. I wonder if that plays any role in why people so often gain back weight after losing it. (Link77)
The idea that everyone who works out or trains hard does it because it's easy for them or because they love it, is flawed. Maybe it's hard for them. Maybe they hate it. But maybe they do it because they're life depends on it (because it does); maybe they do it because they feel guilty when they don't. With or without motivation, when has not working out and eating poorly benefited someone? (TommylandNYC)
I think I have come to a new outlook on motivation. It is over-rated!
The problem most of us have is we view motivation as an external force that gets us to do something beyond what we would normally be capable of doing. Some reward or goal or someone's approval or recognition. The problem with that is when you get there, you are done and the motivation is gone. Some people just keep setting more goals and stay motivated that way, but that is a hard road. I realized what was missing was NOT motivation but hard work and discipline. I decided that I did not need a cheerleader or self talk or affirmations I needed to practice what I knew worked and every day discipline my self to do it. I am back on track now. Frankly a lot of days it is not really fun but there are results I like AND it is starting to feel more like a lifestyle than a contest. (jessemaa)
Make it a routine
Another key principle is to turn your eating and exercise into a daily habit that you don't have to think about. It's part of your normal routine and you spare yourself the exhaustion of having to decide what to eat and how to exercise. Here's a blog post about creating a healthy routine, and here's one that talks about finding time for exercise.
The most important things to realize are:
No get out there and do it.