Losing weight is the easy bit, it’s keeping it off that’s hard. Unfortunately, statistics support this statement with only one in six overweight or obese people able to maintain a 10% drop in weight for a year or more.
So how do you keep the weight off once you’ve lost it?
PHYSIOLOGICAL CAUSES OF WEIGHT GAIN
Dr. Lee Kaplan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Obesity, Metabolism, and Nutrition Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that the main driver of obesity is essentially the body malfunctioning, driving us to store more fat. The drive to store more fat causes us to eat more and to burn less of the calories that we eat. It doesn’t mean that our weight loss efforts will always fail, what it means is we understand why we are storing fat, make changes to reverse the biological process, and work, not only to lose weight but to keep it off once it is lost.
The Lighten Up courses were designed to address, beyond diet, some of the reasons our body stores fat, including stress, lack of sleep, and medications.
Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism and creates a surge of energy in the body and an increase in appetite. Additionally, elevated cortisol levels can cause cravings for sweet, fatty, and salty foods. When circumstances prevent you from removing yourself from a stressful situation altogether, exercise, meditation, mindfulness, yoga and breath practise are just a few ways to reduce your response to stress.
Lack of Sleep
When we get sufficient sleep, the body interprets this as stress and produces cortisol. Lack of sleep can also slow down the metabolism and disrupt the hormones in our brain that regulate hunger. Late-night snacking on poor quality food will also add to the problem.
These days there are some brilliant sleep apps with meditation to help you get off to sleep. Managing stress, cutting out stimulants like caffeine, not eating or drinking too much alcohol, switching off technology a couple of hours before bed, exercising through the day and lowering the temperature in the room can all enable a better night’s sleep.
Drugs that can cause weight gain include some types of antidepressants and mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, beta blockers, steroids, histamine blockers, and pain medications.
If you think medication is the cause of weight gain, talk to your doctor about a potential alternative, but do not come off the medication without talking to your doctor first.
PSYCHOLOGICAL WAYS TO PREVENT WEIGHT GAIN
What you tell yourself will invariably determine your behaviour and outcome which is why it is so important to consider your language.
Saying “I am on a diet” suggests that you will come off that diet one day.
How will you behave when you are “off the diet” is an all-important question to ask yourself.
To keep the weight off once you’ve lost it you must accept you can’t completely revert to the lifestyle behaviours that caused the weight gain in the first place.
HOW DO YOU VIEW YOURSELF?
How you define yourself physically can determine your behaviour in the future.
If over the course of the diet you start to embrace new lifestyle behaviours, for example, you love eating a healthy breakfast each day, or you look forward to and enjoy a daily walk, you can adopt these new behaviours and maintain them after you have achieved weight loss.
Conversely, if you repeatedly tell yourself how much you miss your daily vanilla slice, or how much you hate exercise it won’t be long before motivation lets you down and you revert to the old comfortable debilitating behaviours.
Equally, if you have managed to lose the weight but you still consider yourself to be overweight, it’s highly likely that you may gain the weight again.
Celebrate your new behaviours, claim them as your own and continually reinforce in your mind how much you like being a lighter, healthier person.
Regular habits become occasional indulgences
Back on the vanilla slices – let’s say that are your ‘thing” and you enjoyed a Vanilla Slice pre-weight loss most days with your morning coffee. When you started the diet, you accepted that you had to forgo the vanilla slice. Vanilla slices, potato chips, chocolate, cheese, or alcohol, to keep the weight off once you have lost it you must make an agreement with yourself to shift what was once a regular habit to an occasional indulgence.
Decide what works for you
Because we are all different, to keep the weight off once we’ve lost it, we must recognise our behaviours and strategise around them. Some people have the discipline to eat modest sized portions of everything. That doesn’t work for a greedy piggie like me who likes to eat a lot. I keep my energy intake down (and nutrient intake up) by eating lots of low energy plant-based foods.
If fasting twice a week helped you reach your weight loss goal, a variation of this may be a strategy to maintain the weight loss. Fasting 1 day a week or 2 days a month may help to maintain the focus to keep the weight off.
Stay on top of this and weigh yourself weekly or fortnightly. A 1 kg weight gain is easily managed. Jump on the scales after 3 months and find you have gained 5kg can be psychologically calamitous.
Other suggestions include but are not limited to
- No carbs after 5
- Regular exercise (maintain a daily step count)
- Decide what you can go without – forever (soft drinks are an excellent example)
- Change the habits which led to poor dietary choices
- No alcohol throughout the week and limited consumption on weekends
If you have problems maintaining weight loss, you could benefit from a one-on-one coaching session to develop your unique weight maintenance strategy/program.