Want to keep lost pounds from finding their way home again? Try these five simple rules:
1. Weigh in daily
Sure, it can be depressing to watch your weight fluctuate with every hormonal swing or salty meal. That’s why many commercial weight loss programs discourage you from stepping on the scale every day — they don’t want you to get frustrated and throw in the towel. But according to a study reported in the December 2005 issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine, “higher weighing frequency was associated with greater 24-month weight loss or less weight gain.” In other words, dieters who got on the scale every day were more likely to lose weight and keep it off than those who weighed in less frequently. Why? The study’s authors hypothesize that the frequent feedback made it easier for dieters to correct small weight gains before they could turn into major ones.
2. Have a meal plan
When you were dieting, you knew what you were going to eat for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. But now that you’re just trying to maintain your current weight, do you need to be so rigid? Absolutely! If you go back to eating the way you did before you started dieting, you can expect your weight to rebound too. Figure out your current caloric needs and design a maintenance plan with fixed breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner selections.
The downside to losing weight is that your resting metabolic rate is lower than it was before your diet. This isn’t because you’ve wrecked your metabolism — it’s just that it takes fewer calories to maintain your new, lower weight. Cranking up your daily energy expenditure with regular aerobic workouts will give you a little more wiggle room in your diet.
4. Keep all your daily diet routines
Good or positive habits tend to reinforce each other. Being “good” (i.e., eating right and exercising) is often linked to a host of other habits, so abandoning one, even if it’s no longer strictly necessary, might have the unintended effect of prompting you to dump them all. If you took a multivitamin while you were on your diet, keep taking it. If you always drank eight glasses of water while dieting, don’t stop now.
5. Redefine “normal”
Some people fully expect that, at some point, they will cease to be on a diet and they can go back to eating normally (i.e., without having to think about their choices). The sad reality is that if you return to eating normally, you will go back to what you normally weigh. So how do you maintain your weight loss without feeling like you’re still on a diet? Create a new “normal” routine with exercise, meal choices and rules (no more than one sweetened treat a day, for example). Over time, your routine will feel, well, routine, and maintaining your weight will feel comfortable and completely normal.