There is nothing more frustrating than going on a diet, losing weight, only to find out that several weeks or months down the line you've gained ALL of it back -- and more! Did you know that 97% of all diets fail?!
If you've read my book, Fit + Female, then you know that I am not a big proponent of "dieting", but rather of making permanent lifestyle changes. Changes that you embrace for the long haul -- not just for a quick fix.
Today's Action Challenge:
So if dieting doesn't do it -- how do you keep those pounds from slowly creeping back on? Here are some sure-fire strategies to keeping your weight off after dieting. Change the way you think about "dieting" .
Don't eat "normally"
Most of us approach dieting and weight loss as an all-or-nothing proposition. We are either "on a diet" or "eating normally".
The problem is the "eating normally" (whatever your definition of that is) is what caused the weight gain in the first place -- so that is the LAST thing we want to return to doing.
You need to identify those areas where you were either overeating and/or eating too much of the wrong thing. You need to be honest about it and limit whatever it is in the future so that you don't undo all the hard work you did to lose weight in the first place. Journaling your daily intake for a few weeks (with an app such as myfitnesspal.com) is a great way to get a handle on what's REALLY going on with your eating.
Watch your drinking!
And I'm not just talking about alcohol consumption here, although certainly that can contribute to re-gaining weight. Remember that ALL calories count, even the ones that go down quickly and easily in the form of a beverage. This means limiting your consumption of: juice (eat the whole fruit instead), coffee drinks, "health shakes", smoothies and (of course) alcohol can have you drinking 300 calories in a minute or two.
Just one extra 300 calorie beverage per week can add up to over 1/2 pound of weight gain per week -- 2.4 pounds per month --or an unbelievable 29 pounds in a year!!!
Be a "conscious eater"
When we are on a diet we are all very aware of what we are eating and when. Somehow when we "go off the diet" we start developing "eating amnesia". All of a sudden that bag of M&Ms we had at the desk didn't count, the handful of fries off our kid's plate didn't count, the food you nibble while cooking dinner didn't count. The painful reality is EVERYTHING COUNTS. Calories count. In order to keep weight off you have to be aware of everything that you eat and make conscious choices.
No "bad foods"
There are no "bad foods". But certainly there are healthier and far less healthy foods. Eating well doesn't mean that you don't eat the "fun" foods. But it does mean that you don't eat large quantities of them and you probably don't eat them every single day. For example, it's fine to have a piece of chocolate cake every once and a while, but you need to balance it out with some healthier, lower calories choices (salad and grilled chicken for dinner that day, for example) in order to compensate.
Try to move everyday. Even if a full workout isn't possible, try to get as much of your body moving as possible through out the day. See if there is a sneaky way to all an extra 5-10 minutes of activity into each day. Walk somewhere that you would normally drive, take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, stay out and go around the block once after putting the kids on the bus. Sit on that exercise bike (and pedal!) while watching the evening news. There are ways to add more movement to your day. You just have to be creative and find them. It may not sound like a lot but 10 extra minutes of activity per day can offset the extra calories of a dessert that you had that week, making it harder to put the weight back on.
Burn the ships!!!
You probably remember that story of the general who had his soldiers burn the ships that they arrived to the enemy's shores on -- leaving them no chance for escape. They had to fight and win, because they had no other alternative. Do the same thing. Close the escape hatch. Throw out your "big girl clothes". The clothes you fall back on when you are not taking care of yourself the way you know you should. Better yet, buy some amazing "fit girl clothes", clothes that you would hate to not fit into. If you don't have the option of putting on something lose and baggy you will be more motivated to stay at your goal weight. Also, those tight clothes will serve as a reminder that you're gaining a bit and it's time to get back on track with healthy diet and exercise.
Beware of the scale
Don't weigh yourself everyday. Menstrual changes, hydration status, sodium consumption and more can change your weight by several pounds throughout the day. Daily weigh-ins will likely frustrate you and might even make you think, "why bother" and cause you to toss in the towel entirely. Try for once a week. Ideally on a Wed., after you get up, go to the bathroom and undressed. Use that as a baseline, barring some unusual activity on Tues. Strive to stay within a pound or so of that number each week. If you see yourself consistently 2-3 pounds above that, look at where you might be overdoing it.
Geralyn Coopersmith, MA, CSCS is the National Director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, an educator, exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer and author of Fit and Female: The Complete Fitness & Nutrition Game Plan for Your Unique Body Type.
Geralyn has been featured many TV shows, including: The Dr. Oz Show, The Today Show, CBS Morning Show and Fox and Friends. She has been quoted in:The New York Times, Shape, Self, Fitness, People, Us, Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Oprah.com, Yahoo.com and more.