It’s a lot easier to lose weight than it is to keep off the excess pounds. When you are trying to lose weight, you’re singularly focused on the task at hand. But once you’re down to your target weight, you have to balance weight maintenance with other factors in your life.
On a daily basis, that requires you to continually correct yourself and bring yourself back on course. Weight management is a journey rather than a destination.
Psychology of weight maintenance
Positive thinking patterns are crucial to successful, long-term weight management. People who are not successful at managing their weight tend to
- Make excuses that let them overeat or not exercise.
- Focus narrowly on the pleasure of eating and forget their weight-management goals.
- Doubt their ability to change.
- Set unrealistic expectations for themselves or others.
- Judge themselves and other people harshly. In contrast, those people who are successful tend to
- Remind themselves of their long range goals.
- Notice even small successes in weight management.
- Use positive self-talk to keep them on the right track.
Strategies for weight maintenance
• Make exercise a regular part of your life
Without regular exercise, weight maintenance is exceedingly difficult.
Of course, making exercise a part of your daily routine is easier said than done. I recommend you choose a range of activities that you enjoy and can turn to when you’re in different moods or confronted by bad weather.
• Reduce fat calories to 30% of your daily intake
Most Americans eat more fat than they need. We’re exposed to a lot of fatty, highly palatable foods, so we develop a taste for foods that are readily available. However, you can change your taste buds and actually learn to prefer low-fat foods.
Strategy: Start small. Eat bread without butter, salad with little or no dressing and chicken without its skin.
Bonus: After consuming low-fat foods for a while, you’ll find that eating fatty foods makes you feel physically and psychologically uncomfortable bloated, sluggish, even nauseous.
• Control binges
Between 25% and 50% of all people who attend weight-management programs are bingers. The biggest trigger for binges is negative emotions anger, depression and anxiety.
Strategy: Keep a two-week journal to record your eating behaviors meals, snacks, binges. Also record the circumstances how you feel, what you are doing and your thoughts when you are eating. This will help you identify triggers for eating and develop strategies to avoid them.
Example: I recently treated a female patient who often felt angry and responded to her negative emotions by bingeing. Once she identified her anger as a trigger for excessive eating, she was able to examine her anger cycle and pick and choose which battles to fight and when to let the anger pass away. She also learned to express her anger by confronting the person who had precipitated the anger in her, for instance in ways other than eating.
• Eat moderately
To successfully maintain a low weight level, you must keep your caloric intake under control.
Strategy: Eat anything you want, but keep your calories in a moderate range. The government recommends between 1,600 and 2,800 calories each day to maintain weight for most adult men and women. However, your best range for maintaining weight will depend on your age, sex, lifestyle, activity level and other factors. Experiment with adding on and taking off calories to find the range that’s best for you.
• Think smart
Focus on your long-term goal of weight maintenance, give yourself instructional thoughts and pat yourself on the back for positive behaviors.
Mistake: At the office, a coworker is passing around slices of cake. As a slice comes your way, you see only the cake, not your goal. You rationalize, telling yourself that you’ve been good for weeks and you shouldn’t be deprived when everyone else is eating it.
Better: As a slice comes your way, remind yourself that you’ve worked hard to lose weight, you feel great and you want to keep the weight off. You tell yourself that the momentary pleasure of the cake isn’t in your best interest. You decline the cake. As your coworker moves on to someone else, you feel good about yourself and congratulate yourself for forgoing temptation.
• Handle lapses
Everyone backslides on occasion.
Strategy: Avoid turning a lapse into a relapse. Instead of having a second donut, go to the gym to burn off the calories or cut back on calorie intake tomorrow.
Create a lifestyle that is satisfying to you
The last thing you want to say at the end of your life is that you devoted the majority of your life to watching your weight. While weight maintenance is important to health and psychological well-being, your life should be about something more meaningful.
Create a mission that makes you feel your life is worth living. Find a way to be creative, contribute to society or do something that’s important to you.