All too often when people lose weight, it creeps back on. Then the process may start all over again. This can lead to endless frustration, fluctuating weight patterns, and even poor self-esteem (aka, feeling like a failure).
Sometimes, people succeed at getting off the roller coaster.
Who are these people and how do they do it? Are they just better at suffering? Are they endowed with superhuman willpower? Do they have a personal chef or a live-in life coach?
Some parts of maintaining weight loss are still a mystery. Things like how much of a role genetics plays, what is the best motivator, or how to fix a broken metabolism.
Characteristics of Weight Maintainers
However, the jury has weighed in on many, many issues around weight loss maintenance. To reiterate, this is about maintaining weight loss, not losing weight in the first place. Some of the items here may surprise you, but I am guessing that most will not. Here’s a few:
1. Let’s get this one out of the way first.
It’s about the exercise. Time and again studies have shown that those who increase their leisure time activity and/or meet the recommended 150 minutes a week plus do resistance training twice a week are more often in the group of people who maintain weight loss. Those who rely on diet alone have more trouble maintaining their hard-earned loss.
2. Turns out that those who lose more weight initially are more likely to keep it off.
What could this mean? Looking at it from afar, you would have to guess that people who have lost more are more committed to the process. That is, they have employed more strategies, and for longer. What happens then is that the strategies are rubbing off and being taken in as a lifestyle.
But what of those people who have gone on a crash diet and lost a ton of weight? The results are in on that. This type of weight loss almost always leads to a rebound of weight gain.
3. People who maintain weight tend to weigh themselves at least once a week, if not more.
What could be going on here? Frequent weighing means that those folks have not lost their focus, their motivation, and have not given up on the process. Even if they have “blown it” or fallen off the wagon, they are still monitoring and staying engaged.
4. Those who maintain weight loss are a lot more likely to follow their new habits every day of the week.
There are no “cheat days” or “no-holds-barred weekends.” Again, this shows a dedication and engagement with the process, and not just a temporary dip into a set of rules that are considered restrictive.
5. Lastly, there is autonomy.
Autonomy over the process of weight control means that the strategies and motivation have been internalized. There is a strong “why” driving motivation that is constantly in the picture. For some it is avoiding a health scare, for others it can be quality of life.
Whatever the reason, autonomy also means that the person has assumed responsibility for learning the necessary skills to overcome previously learned behaviors. That would be things like emotional eating, binge eating, eating when not hungry, eating quickly, and portion control. On a more practical level, it means things like learning to cook and shop differently, incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the diet, and eating foods with lower fat content.
Autonomy means that the person is taking an active rather than a passive approach to meeting the challenges of overeating. What does that mean? It means not just following a diet, but learning new behaviors in response to old eating habits and triggers. It means diving in to what the old habits are, confronting them, and changing them.
The message is to find what is personally relevant, starting with motivation (your “why”), then focusing on what you are willing to change in your everyday life that will get you to your goals. Then, following up with regular reminders, monitoring, and openness to coming up against your old habits again and again as you work to change them. Difficult? Yes! Impossible! No! But it all takes time.
In the words of some in the National Weight Control Registry of successful weight loss maintainers…”the first two years are the hardest.” Perhaps these words are a downer, but it does underline that the process is for the long haul. Otherwise, it is not maintenance!
All the best
© 2021 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved
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