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I don’t want to discourage you, but I must be honest. Losing weight is great, but it’s only half of the battle. Equally important is the process of maintaining weight loss. When I lost 70 pounds, I was determined to not gain it back. Below are 10 ways I have used to successfully maintain my weight loss. I have included professional sources to support that these ways are applicable to most anyone for maintaining weight loss.
What exactly do I mean by maintaining weight loss? In the Annual Review of Nutrition, authors Wing and Hill define successful long-term weight loss maintenance as losing at least 10% of body weight for at least one year [a]. According to this definition, I’m doing good, as over 13 years ago I lost 35% of my body weight and have kept almost all of it off.
As the Food Tracking Momma, my goal is to not only enable you to successfully lose weight, but to make lifestyle changes that will enable to you to maintain that weight loss. And maybe, in the process, learn to live life more abundantly (John 10:10).
1. Track your food
Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research did a weight loss study that included keeping a food diary. The study found that the most powerful predictor of participant’s weight loss was how many days per week they kept their food diary. Those who kept food records six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less [b].
Why am I an advocate for food tracking (counting calories and logging them in a food diary)? I’m not a nutritionist or a health care provider. What I do have is proven experience of losing weight and keeping most of it off over the last 13 years. I don’t have super-willpower. And I’m not an overly healthy eater although this process has taught me to make more healthy food choices. In addition, my exercise during the day would be considered light if at all. I’m just a regular gal who gained weight and needed a long-term weight loss solution.
I knew I needed to lose weight and I wanted a solution that would also enable me to maintain that weight loss. Food tracking taught me about portions, healthier and low-calorie food choices, and increased activity. Because I went slowly I was able to make the lifestyle changes that have enabled me to successfully maintain my weight loss.
2. Develop a community of healthy relationships
A weight loss research study encouraged overweight participants to invite up to three partners to attend the program alongside them. Participants with at least one partner who successfully lost weight also lost significantly more weight at 6, 12, and 18 months than those with no successful partners and those without partners [c].
I would not have lost weight without the encouragement of my husband and friends. I want you to find a community of people that will encourage you not only to lose weight, but then to keep the weight off. Lean on family and friends.
Let me be a support to you in this process. Follow me on Pinterest. Join my Facebook group, Losing Weight with Food Tracking, so that you receive helpful tips and support from others. I’ll be on there to also help you.
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3. Change your habits and your lifestyle
You had to make changes to lose weight. If you lost weight quickly by participating in a diet, you may struggle to maintain those changes. I strongly encourage slow weight loss to help give you time to make slow changes that will be lasting changes (I recommend you read my Slow versus Fast Weight Loss post).
For more information on developing healthy habits, please read 17 Healthy Habits for Successful Weight Loss. The information available in that post will also apply to the process of maintaining your weight loss.
4. Limit screen time
A great resource for learning about long-term weight loss maintenance is the National Weight Control Registry. The NWCR is the largest study of long-term successful weight loss maintenance. The have found that participants that limit screen time are 62% more successful in maintaining their weight loss [d].
This makes sense. When you are in front of the TV or on your phone, you are usually sitting. And sitting is a problem because you are rarely active when you are sitting. Make it a habit to unplug and get up and do something. Anything. By limiting screen time, you will naturally increase your activity.
5. Increase activity and exercise
We all probably know it’s important to increase activity and exercise, but I struggle with this. As a mom of a very active toddler, I’m usually tired. And on top of that, I struggle with chronic pain. But even if my exercise is light, there really is no reason I can’t increase activity. We can all do that.
I try to actively play with my son. I park my car farther from the door when I go shopping. I get out and walk. Any activity you do will burn calories. So, get up and do something. Anything. And remember the NWCR? Participants who exercised had a 90% success rate in maintaining their weight loss. That’s a convincing statistic.
6. Weigh yourself
This is probably the number one task surrounding awareness and accountability. And I believe this is a major reason I’ve been successful at maintaining my weight loss. I recommend you weigh yourself weekly to catch any weight gain trends.
When I lost the weight, I continued to track my food for 10 years. Yes, you read that right. For me it’s easy and no big deal. I weighed myself once a week and I didn’t gain any measurable weight. About two years ago I quit tracking and very slowly I started to gain weight. I knew this because I continued to weigh myself. After gaining 15 pounds, I knew I had to act and so I returned to food tracking.
I am now only nine pounds from my lowest weight. But it was the action of weighing myself that allowed me to monitor how my weight was changing. And the NWCR has noted that weight loss is maintained in 75% of participants that regularly weigh themselves.
7. Drink water
“Mild dehydration is often masked as feelings of hunger, when really your body just needs fluids,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics [e]. If I’m hungry, I will often drink water before I eat anything. Drinking water often satisfies me and I won’t need to eat food.
For those that follow my blog, you already know what I will probably say next. Don’t drink your calories. You only have so many calories a day and it’s difficult staying under when you are drinking 300-400 calories a day in liquids. And please don’t switch to diet drinks. I haven’t written specifically about diet drinks as I’m not sure I’m really qualified, but may I at least say that they are artificial and will not help your body maintain its weight loss.
I recommend you carry water with you wherever you go. I prefer cold water so I always carry a double-insulated water bottle. This way I’m not buying expensive plastic water bottles when I’m in need of a drink.
8. Eat a healthy breakfast
When I was researching this topic, there was one tip that I found consistent in every single site that mentioned weight maintenance strategies. The most consistent finding is to eat a (presumably healthy) breakfast.
Are you wondering if the NWCR mentions this? You know it does. Those who eat a breakfast are 78% more likely to maintain their weight.
Try to eat a breakfast that is high in protein and has good carbs. I recommend oatmeal, overnight oats, fruits, eggs, and yogurt-based smoothies. You will be satisfied, and you will tend to eat less throughout the day. As I write this post, I take a quick break to eat my eggs on avocado toast for breakfast. Now I’m ready for the day!
9. Remember your motivation
Why did you decide to lose weight? What motivated you to make the hard changes and lose weight? For me, it was the shock of seeing my fat person picture. I never wanted to look fat. I wanted to look thin and attractive for my husband, and I wanted to live a healthy lifestyle.
When you struggle with maintaining your weight, you must focus on the same motivation that encouraged you to lose. Is it the bikini in summer? Or you want to be healthy to play actively with your kids? Whatever it is, REMEMBER and FOCUS on that. It will motivate you to keep off the weight.
10. Set new goals
I’m a goals-oriented person and so the process of making and keeping goals keeps me motivated. This is how I lost weight, and this is part of how I’ve maintained my weight loss. After losing most of my excess weight, I started to run. Once my knee didn’t let me do that, I switched to long-distance biking. My body is still fighting me, so I am working on new goals. I have started a new business. I’m a first-time mom. I’ve started writing this blog.
What are your goals? Now that you’ve lost weight, this is a time to set new goals. Find a new sport or activity. Make new and healthy friends. Commit to focusing more on others. Be kind. Be generous. Set a new goal and work to achieve it.
This post is focused on giving you tangible ways for maintaining weight loss. If you found it helpful, please comment and let me know. And let me know the strategies that have worked for you.
The Food Tracking Momma