If your diet alternates between strictly one of the above pictures or the other, you may fall into the large group of people who constantly struggle with weight. “Yo-yo dieting” is extremely common, especially in the United States, as so many of us struggle to find balance between enjoying food and staying at (or getting to) a healthy weight.
The question is, what actually works for long-term weight loss, and what can you maintain without going crazy? It’s a tough question, and different nutrition experts have different answers. But there are a few things we all pretty much agree on, that will at least help increase your chances of sustaining weight loss:
- Lose weight slowly. If you begin by cutting 100 or 200 calories/day, you’ll lose 1-2 lbs per month. This sounds dreadfully slow when you want to get the weight off, but the less disruptive your healthy changes are to your normal routine, the more likely you are to stick with them. And over the course of a year, you’d lose 12-24 lbs, which is a lot!
- Don’t cut any particular food group out of your diet. Not even junk food. People who deprive themselves of certain foods are much more likely to fail at long-term weight loss, because it’s just not convenient or fun. Instead, make indulgences more occasional, keep portions reasonable, and constantly work at eating more veggies and fruits.
- Plan ahead. This is incredibly important. If you’re prepared, you are much more likely to make good eating decisions, in all sorts of different scenarios. Here are some easy ways to plan ahead.
- Be patient, and realistic. Easier said than done, I know, but it really does help. When you feel like you want to give up or go on a crash diet to speed up the process, remind yourself of your overall goal: to keep weight off forever. It probably took you a long time to gain the weight, so give yourself time to lose it. And be realistic about how much weight you want to/should lose. If you’re aiming for a number that’s too low for your body, it’ll be hard to maintain once you get there.
- Explore all the non-food-related pleasures in your life. If food has been your greatest pleasure for a long time, it will need to be replaced with other things you love. I recommend making a few lists of little things that bring you pleasure (for example: walking with a friend, reading US Weekly, listening to your favorite song, resting on the couch with your feet up, etc). Keep these stashed around the house (perhaps a post-it on the fridge door?) so whenever you’re tempted to eat out of boredom, stress, sadness, happiness, etc, you can pick an alternative activity.
These are just a few of the many tips that can help with long-term weight loss. I’d love to hear any tips that you or people you know may have. I’ll also be following this New York Times columnist as he documents his next attempt at long-term weight loss. I hope he reveals some of his own tips for success.