There are numerous, well-documented studies about maintaining successful weight loss. The studies generally zero in on a number of common behaviors that healthy people practice. This can give everyone who ever struggled with their weight much hope because keeping weight off is not just a function of having good willpower, but of learning to do things differently and creating a new lifestyle. Narrowing down the essentials to just 5 is hard, but here are some guidelines to help you meet your goals:
1. Get Active: You have a daily calorie budget, just like you have a financial budget. I doubt any of us would turn down a pay raise. In the same way, when you exercise, you are increasing your calorie budget and making it easier to keep off weight. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes every day, making an effort to increase your heart rate--it makes a huge difference in long-term health. Do it all at once or in shorter bouts, but just do it! Add to that, do simple things all day long that burn additional calories. Take the stairs every time you can. Park at the back of the lot when you go shopping, walk while you talk on your cell phone, do multiple short bouts of exercise during the day--5 minutes on a break, 15 minutes at lunch, etc-all of these activities add up to calorie burn that impacts your weight. Burning just 100 extra calories per day will save you 10 lbs per year...year after year.
2. Eat Healthy: The healthiest foods are generally the lowest calorie foods, so you get a double benefit. They protect your health, and they keep off the weight. These foods are lean proteins, whole grains that are high in fiber, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Use the CDC's new plate model and visualize filling your dinner plate like this: 1/2 fruits and veggies; ¼ a lean protein serving-fish, chicken, low-fat dairy; and 1/4 whole grains, pasta, brown rice, etc. When you choose these foods you are lowering your risk for all kinds of major health conditions, and you are consuming less calories.
3. Stay Ahead of Hunger: Research shows that about 90 percent of people who stay at a healthy weight eat breakfast and continue to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Eating like this is a great way to boost your willpower--we all know what happens to our good intentions when we get hungry. We consume far more calories than we ever saved by skipping a meal.
4. Take Time to Plan: I tell my patients the old adage--a failure to plan is a plan to fail. You must think about how to have the healthy foods available and how you will deal with your challenges. If you don't plan, you won't find the time to exercise, you will end up going out to eat a very high calorie meal at lunch instead of having a healthy one at your desk. You will get busy and rushed and forget breakfast or a having a healthy snack so you do stay ahead of hunger. By dinner time, you are so hungry, willpower is at an all-time low and the evening events take over and here we go again--eating on the run and choosing food that is fast and convenient, but usually not very healthy. Planning is essential. It takes some training, but soon, you will be able to do it as automatically as you manage all of your other responsibilities.
5. Get Support: Back to the research. The number one indicator in whether a person is successful at losing and keeping off weight is whether or not they are in a support group. A willingness to seek help and commit to it for an extended period of time gives us a huge advantage. Now look at how this need is evident in our culture. 75 percent of people who want to lose weight would prefer to do it on their own, yet we have a huge obesity problem in our culture—67 percent of adult Americans are overweight or obese. Losing weight on our own is not working!