The holidays have come and gone. Life as you know it is back to normal. Except, of course, for those extra pounds you may be carrying as a hefty reminder of holiday revelry. You can reach and maintain your desired weight with the following tactics.
Find a Good Time to Start
Losing weight is a challenge, and requires the same careful consideration that you would give to changing your job, moving, or choosing a college. Create a plan that really suits your lifestyle. Plan to start during a quiet time in your life, not when work and family responsibilities are likely to be at their peak. Start slowly to see how your plan goes and make adjustments as you need to.
Check With Your Healthcare Provider If You Have Any Medical Problems
You want to be certain that your eating and exercise plans are compatible with your health status. This is especially important if you have diabetes, as losing weight may change your requirements for insulin or other medication.
Plan an Exercise Program
Walk, join a gym, or buy workout DVDs—the bottom line is that you need to move! Dietary changes without exercise are unlikely to produce long-term results. Exercise will make you feel better about yourself, increase your cardiovascular fitness, and enhance your weight loss efforts. If you have a hard time getting started, find a friend to buddy up with on your workout days. It may also be easier to join a class where other people can keep you motivated.
Consider Your Approach
While quick weight loss seems most desirable, it is not healthy, nor is it lasting. You want to choose a plan which will allow for 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss per week while preserving your lean body mass and water. Ultimately, weight loss is a matter of simple math. You have to burn more calories than you take in. Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day instead of the standard 3 meals. This will allow you to fill up on healthy snacks rather than go hungry between meals. If you need to, consider talking to a dietitian about healthier food choices, portion control, and meal planning.
Don't Forget Fluids
Drink plenty of water each day. Water is noncaloric, fills you up, and prevents dehydration. And do not forget the psychological benefit—water gives you something to put in your mouth when you are trying to forget about eating. Flavor your water with a spritz of fresh lemon or lime.
Keep Track of Your Progress
If the scale intimidates you, look for other ways to chart your progress. Your weight fluctuates daily based on many factors, so a scale may not be the most accurate way to measure your success. If you want to use a scale, do so periodically. Try other ways of measuring your weight loss. For example, try on a snug pair of pants every other day. As the waist band becomes less snug, you will become more motivated. Or use a measuring tape to measure your waist, hips, or other body part, and chart your progress once a week.
Don't Punish Yourself
One splurge does not undermine your overall efforts. Learning to forgive yourself and overlook your indulgences are key to long-term weight control. If you have one high-calorie meal, move on; do not turn it into a bad day or bad week. One high-calorie meal is no big deal, but giving up is damaging to progress.
Recruit your significant other, friends, work colleagues, or children for encouragement and support. Remind them that although you do not need the diet police, you would appreciate that they not sabotage your efforts. Also, there are many commercially available weight loss programs that are helpful.
Both small and large treats will help you to realize your goals. Break your weight goal down into smaller segments and compensate yourself as you reach each one. The more you reward yourself, the more motivated you will be to continue.
Losing the weight is your first challenge. Keeping it off is the next. While there is no simple formula for maintaining your new physique, the following motivational keys may be helpful:
Break the Maintenance Commitment Into Small Intervals
Make one commitment to losing weight and a second commitment to maintaining your weight loss. It is easier to commit to keeping your weight steady for 1 year than for the rest of your life.
Create New Habits
Trigger these habits on a daily basis. If you decide to eat breakfast every day, set out the cereal bowl or the dry ingredients the night before. The same goes for your morning or after work trips to the gym. Preparing everything you need the night before will save you time and lots of effort the next morning. It may also provide additional motivation to follow-through with it.
Many processed foods are full of salt and sugar, so adding more can derail your progress. If you add salt and sugar to your food, slowly cut it back until you stop. Your taste buds will adapt quickly and before you know it, you won't be reaching for them at all. Learn to read food labels and find out where hidden sugars, salts (or sodium), and fats are.
Although strict diet regimens are successful for short periods, deprivation over time is self-defeating. Food should be enjoyable. Keep a list of foods that you like and that are compatible with weight maintenance. When you find yourself craving a less healthful meal, treat yourself to the foods on your list.
Monitor Your Weight
Get on the scale, try on a predesignated pair of pants, or use a tape measure. The method is not important. Just be sure that you are able to keep track of the progress. If you find that you have put on 1 to 3 pounds, just be extra watchful for a few days. If you put back more than 4 pounds, however, you should gear up for "relapse recovery." As you build your recovery plan, enlist the support of at least 1 person who really understands the ups and downs of weight reduction. It may be helpful to keep a food diary so you can see where you deviated and how it affected your weight.
Remember that you are a capable, intelligent person who can accomplish whatever you set out to do. Learn to cope with the stress that leads to overeating. Keep a mental picture of your total weight loss experience—your new body, the feeling of being in control and taking care of yourself, or even your new clothes.
Weight maintenance involves shifting from restricted eating to more flexible eating. This flexibility is harder to handle than a simple set of rules. Just accepting the fact that weight maintenance is difficult is an important step to continued success. Recognizing that some setbacks are inevitable will help you cope with them as they occur.
American Council on Exercise (ACE)
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Dietitians of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Diets for weight loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 11, 2016. Accessed April 27, 2016.
Losing weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight. Updated May 15, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2016.
Overweight and obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/index.html. Updated June 19, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2016.
Physical activity for weight loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 12, 2016. Accessed April 27, 2016.
Last reviewed April 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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