1. KEEP MOVING
When it comes to weight loss, diet is key. But for maintenance, exercise is essential. Many studies show people who exercise more are able to maintain weight loss compared to those who exercise less. Whether it’s spinning and weight training or neighborhood walks, find an activity that you love doing so you want to do it often. Aim for 30 to 45 minutes of planned activity every day, or 200 to 300 minutes every week.
2. EMBRACE HEALTHY EATING
Avoid an “on-diet” versus “off-diet” mindset. Returning to old, unhealthy behaviors will almost certainly bring back the weight. To keep it off for good, you need to change the way you think about food. Make a lifelong commitment to stick with the healthy habits you learned along your weight-loss journey—at least 80 percent of the time. Planning your meals and cooking more at home can help. Many high-calorie, fast foods can easily be made with fewer, simpler ingredients, which will be better for your waistline. Fill your plate with low-calorie, filling foods, like veggies, fruit, whole grains, fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes. And why test your willpower? Keep temptations out of the house, and when you do have the occasional treat, enjoy it mindfully.
3. ACCEPT YOUR METABOLISM HAS CHANGED, BUT ONLY SLIGHTLY
A recent Biggest Loser study created fears that weight loss can drastically slow your metabolism, forever. Its true metabolism adapts to a lower weight—a small car needs less gas than a bigger one—but not usually to the extent seen in the show’s contestants. Consider how fast and drastic their weight loss was. It would be almost impossible for them to maintain that level of dedication towards diet and exercise in their real lives. It’s a good reminder that slow and steady (weight loss) wins the race, as metabolism changes are less with more moderate weight loss. But even if you’ve just dropped 10 or 20 pounds, your calorie needs are still less than before, so you will need to eat fewer calories, or exercise a little harder than you used to, in order to stay lean. Accept it and own it!
4. WEIGH IN OFTEN
Regularly hopping on the scales means you can notice small weight gains before they become bigger ones. And research agrees—regular weight checks lead to better maintenance. Daily is ideal, but if this starts to mess with your head, stick to weekly. Pick the same time, each week and make it a habit so you will be able to see any patterns or trends (remember small 1 to 2 pound fluctuations are normal.) Be proactive if you notice the weight creeping back on. Start logging your food intake, so you can spot where those extra calories are sneaking their way back into your diet.
5. DON’T GO IT ALONE
Get support from others. Whether it’s a registered dietitian who can help with monthly check-ins or a local support group of people with similar health goals, find someone to keep you accountable. While you’re at it, spend time with friends who share the same health and fitness philosophy, rather than those who sabotage your efforts.
6. ANTICIPATE SETBACKS
Go easy on yourself. If you regain some of the weight you lost, don’t view it as a failure or throw in the towel! Pick yourself up, and remember even small amounts of weight loss still mean big health benefits. Have a plan to get back on track again. And when you’ve lost weight, celebrate with a message, not a cookie! Then refocus your efforts on keeping those pounds off for good.