Dear Dieting Reader,
So, here’s a stickler of a situation: what do you do when you actually get to your goal weight? It is a truth universally acknowledged by anyone who has ever lost weight, that losing weight seems easy in comparison to doggy-paddling at a happy plateau. Fad diets encourage us to lose weight quickly and easily (that is, if you have been purposefully engineered by rogue scientists never to have cravings and succumb to them) – but what do we do when that extra poundage finally drops off? Typically, many of us fall off the metaphorical bandwagon and gain some back – but ideally, we’d like to stay bobbing around in the oasis for at least a while. So … how does one achieve this?
- Understand your habits. When you were losing weight, you probably overcame a lot of the pre-weight-loss eating/lifestyle habits that kept you at a (less fit) stasis. You probably came to a better understanding of the sorts of things that would trigger an uncontrollable binge: emotional eating, perhaps (or just an uncontrollable lust for crisps). Either way, carry on utilising the methods that you obviously employed when you originally lost the weight – to prevent mad binges/cravings now you’re maintaining. Just because you’re not trying to lose weight doesn’t mean your bad habits can come creeping back!
- Walk places. Er, okay – seems daft, but honestly walking instead of driving or getting public transport is the best form of overall, gentle exercise to keep your weight in check. Not buying it? Well, walking burns approximately 100 calories for every half hour … it’s not going to make you ripped, but it definitely assists your overall effort.
- Weigh yourself. There are conflicting messages over how often to weigh yourself (if at all, in fact) when you’re on a weight-loss diet … but what about when you’re maintaining? Well, now you’ve reached your goal, weighing yourself shouldn’t have to make you feel anxious or upset … because you achieved it already! Now the goal is to make that figure stay more or less where it is. Weighing yourself more often (a few times a week) will keep you in touch with your body’s natural fluctuations, but it will also keep you alert as to whether you are actually moving away from that figure you worked so hard for. If you can detect a change while it’s still small, you can nip that in the bud before it throws you right off-course.
- Stay strict. Just because you’re not trying to lose any more weight doesn’t mean you have to stop being disciplined (to an extent). Just as it’s important to break your bad habits, remember all your good dieting habits: planning meals, for example, and counting calories. Sure, you can relax a little – add in more calories, a few more cheat meals – but don’t get too laid back or that weight may end up creeping back up, and throwing you off. Counting calories and planning meals in particular have been proven, time and time again, to be successful weight loss (and maintenance!) aids. Think 80/20 … being virtuous in your decisions while still managing to have a little bit of what you fancy.
- … But have some fun! A little bit of discipline isn’t going to make your life miserable – if it does, you’re doing it wrong. If living a life that involves mentally totting up your calorie count and working out more often is bogging you down – then mix things up a bit! Eat low-calorie foods that are full of flavour and nutrients – fruit and veg are nature’s candy, after all! You can feast on berries and colourful veggies with absolutely no guilt whatsoever. Try making lean versions of your favourite cheat meals, so you can feel justified in eating them more regularly. And make workouts more fun! Try a group workout or a dance class – or just put Beyonce’s new album on when you’re pounding the treadmill…