I was talking to a friend the other day, and we were discussing weight loss and different ways of maintaining weight loss in the long term. It’s so wonderful when people are able to lose weight and reach certain goals they set for themselves, but maintaining that weight loss over time is where many people struggle and falter. In my own personal experience, weight maintenance has been an interesting journey. It’s been about 17 years since I lost a large amount of weight, and in that time, I’ve gleaned several tips that have helped me personally maintain a healthy weight. I thought I’d share some of these tips in hopes that others might find some of them helpful.
- Follow the plate method for meals and snacks: make 1/2 of your plate fruits/veggies, 1/4 of your plate whole grains and 1/4 of your plate lean proteins. I don’t particularly count calories, but by following the plate method, I’ve been able to keep my meals and snacks within a reasonable caloric level while providing the proper nutrients my body needs.
- Eat regular meals and snacks. Most particularly, eat breakfast on a regular basis. Don’t skip meals. I have found that when I skip a meal, I overeat in the evening because my body has not received the proper nutrition it needs throughout the day.
- Satisfy cravings in a healthy way. I have a major sweet tooth. I really enjoy desserts, especially in the evening. Something I’ve found that works to satisfy this sweet tooth is a cup of homemade hot chocolate. Generally it’s not recommended to drink your calories, but I make an exception for milk or milk alternatives, as they are great sources of calcium and vitamin D. I use low-fat milk, dark cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon. It’s a wonderfully rich, warm drink that satisfies my need for something chocolaty. It averages around 200 calories, which is a better option than a more calorific piece of chocolate cake or some ice cream. If you don’t drink milk, you could use dairy alternatives like soy, rice or almond milk.
- Drink plenty of water. Try and drink at least 8 cups of water a day if you can. I drink about 16 cups of water a day, and I’ve found that being properly hydrated really helps me follow my hunger signals more accurately. So when I’m hungry, I know it’s actual hunger I’m feeling rather than thirst.
- Eat out less frequently. I used to dine out on a regular basis, at least 3-4 times per week. Generally meals eaten out tend to be higher in calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium. So I found that in order to maintain a healthy weight over the long term, I needed to cut back on eating out. These days I allow myself the pleasurable experience of dining at a restaurant about once every week or two. I’m still able to enjoy a nice pizza parlor or steakhouse, but I do it much less frequently.
- Abolish the all-or-nothing mentality. This is something that I’ve worked on for 17 years. When we overindulge in food, it can be so easy to fall into the mentality of giving up completely. I have certainly found myself wanting to do this throughout the years. But what I’ve come to realize is that this weight maintenance journey is for a lifetime. I may have days or even weeks where I falter, but I can always get myself back on track, never giving up. There’s always another meal–there’s always another day with which to get back on track. So don’t give up.