Losing weight is one thing; maintain that weight loss and your ideal weight is another thing entirely. Honestly, research shows that history is not on your side, as many people who have lost weight on diets eventually gain the weight back over a few years. Where did these people go wrong? Well, there are a number of factors that can affect weight maintenance, but it generally has a lot to do with the strategies used to lose weight in the first place. After all, losing weight has more to do with lifestyle change than it does with depriving yourself. Now, regardless of how you lost the weight, the challenge lies in maintaining the weight loss, and when it comes to maintenance, the four most important things to do are: maintain a regular exercise routine, eat a healthy diet that is high in low-fat protein, self-motivation and small rewards for sticking to a healthy lifestyle. We know that this is easier said than done, so check out some of our tips and tricks to stay on track and keep the weight off for good.
Maintenance Tip 1: Find an Exercise Routine that You Enjoy
While it’s important to get a decent balance of cardio and strength training in, what’s even more important is finding an activity that you actually like to do. Not only does regular physical activity make you more sensitive to insulin (hello fat burn!), choosing an exercise that you like will also help you keep on track with your daily caloric burning needs. Bonus? Studies show that exercising regularly actually helps to decrease your appetite. Of course, it’s good to have a few kinds of exercise that you like so that you can keep mixing up your routine.
Maintenance Tip 2: Figure Out a Healthy Way to Count Calories
It’s a proven and historical fact that restrictive diets requiring tons of careful calorie counting simply won’t work in the long run. It’s just not sustainable! Instead of going crazy about the number of calories you consume, just think about appropriate portion sizes. For example, you don’t have to make sure that your protein is exactly 179 grams. You can make sure, instead, that your meat fits in the palm of your hand so that you don’t over eat. Double that portion size for your vegetables and fill the remaining space on your plate with a great choice of whole-grain food.
Maintenance Tip 3: Fill Up on Honest-to-Goodness Fiber
If you want to maintain your weight, then you really need to make your food work for you. One of the best ways to do that is to start eating foods that will fill your tummy up before they fill you out. High-fiber foods in particular are great for this and come in the form of whole grains, vegetables and fruits. In fact, an individual eating a healthy and well-balanced diet should be eating up to five cups of fruit or vegetable a day. An easy way to hit this number is by eating a salad before your meal or even a bowl of vegetable soup. Apart from keeping you full, doing this will also help you decrease your calorie intake by up to 10 percent.
Maintenance Tip 4: Go Easy on the Carbs
While you don’t necessary need to cut carbohydrates out of your diet, it’s important that you keep your carbohydrate intake to a minimum. This is because carbohydrates are largely responsible for spikes in blood sugar levels and will also cause your insulin to rise, which means increased fat storage. A low carbohydrate diet will have you burning fat for fuel, which also means that you won’t get hit with cravings between meals. Do keep in mind as well that artificial sweeteners can actually make you gain weight and trigger sugar cravings, so if you want to lessen sugar intake, you can go for natural sweeteners like stevia.
Maintenance Tip 5: Dairy is Not the Enemy
A lot of people think that’s it’s necessary to ditch the dairy when losing or maintaining weight, but trust us when we tell you that dairy is really not the enemy. In fact, the ADA actually suggests that you include dairy food in your diet because they can help manage weight. Choices like yogurt and milk can actually help you burn fat and keep the pounds off as long as you’re going for low-fat dairy products. One of our favorite dairy dishes to include in our regular diet is a Greek yogurt parfait with chia seeds, fresh berries and a light sprinkling of granola on top. If you like your yogurt sweet, go for natural sweeteners like raw honey or agave.
Maintenance Tip 6: Start Writing in Your Diary Again
No, we don’t mean those dear diary stints you did as a 14-year-old girl. We’re talking about keeping a daily food log so you can make caloric intake estimates and so that you can practice mindful eating. Seriously folks, it is absolutely incredible and surprising at how easy it is to forget about how much food you’ve eaten in one day. Maybe you’re forgetting on purpose or maybe you simply don’t realize what you’re putting in your mouth, but that’s exactly why a food diary is crucial to long term (or lifelong) weight maintenance. You can even log your activities in your journal to make sure you’re constantly creating a caloric-deficit in your daily life or at least keeping the status quo. You know what, list down your fitness goals while you’re at it!
Maintenance Tip 7: Maintain a Healthy Attitude
Your mind is a powerful thing and it can truly spell the difference between maintaining a healthy weight and spiraling out of control. One of the first steps to developing a healthy mindset and attitude is to make peace with your weight and food if you haven’t yet done so. Reducing stress is also crucial since stress releases a hormone that actually triggers cravings. It sounds cliché but it really is true that loving yourself is the first step to self betterment.