Make changes that last
Over half of American adults report that they’re actively trying to lose weight, which often means navigating an endless list of weight loss tips, products and frustrating fad diets. However, with hard work and dedication to healthy habits, you might begin to notice some results.
Unfortunately, 90 percent of people admit they’ve regained lost weight, which makes the process of trying to lose weight even more daunting. So how can you make these changes last?
“The weight loss journey itself can be a huge hurdle for people looking for long-term results,” says Dr. Christopher Still, medical director for Geisinger’s Center for Nutrition and Weight Management. “Many people who reach their weight loss goal struggle with maintenance because too stringent diets and meal plans aren’t sustainable in the long run. That short term 'fad diet' will end eventually, and you’ll likely gain the weight back.”
Here are some tips to make your own weight loss more than a fad.
Look beyond just the calories
Diets get one thing right: Good nutrition is vital for long-term success; however, unbalanced programs aren’t always the answer.
“A calorie is just a unit of energy. Our bodies burn them to perform vital functions, then store the extra calories as fat,” says Dr. Still. Though counting your calories is an important way to manage portions and keep an eye on the bottom line, they aren’t the only factor you should monitor.
“Calorie counting may not take into account the nutritional value of foods,” says Dr. Still. “This can leave you with an unbalanced diet that’s low on vital nutrients.” For example, 100 calories of ice cream and 100 calories of cucumber both leave you with the same amount of energy, but will have vastly different impacts on other parts of your body.
Remember that food pyramid from the school cafeteria? A diet heavy in fruits and vegetables, followed by lean meats or proteins and finally whole grains — while limiting fruit juices and sugary beverages, will help keep you healthy and feeling full.
Keep a diary and revisit your favorites
Tracking your meals and exercise is an easy way to figure out what works for you. If you discover sports or activities you enjoy and foods that are both tasty and healthy, make a note so you can incorporate them into your daily routine.
“Creating habits you enjoy makes it easier to commit to long term lifestyle change,” says Dr. Still. “Forcing yourself into the gym and eating foods you dislike will set you up for failure.”
But remember to maintain some variety in your workouts! Muscle memory works fast, and you want to keep challenging yourself to avoid a plateau.
Check with your doctor
Every body is different, and there may be a medical reason you’re struggling to lose or keep off those last few pounds.
“Medications, stress and chronic conditions can change your body’s metabolism, taking away your control,” says Dr. Still. For example, more than 5 million women have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that can cause weight gain as well as acne, thinning hair and irregular periods.
Another hormone imbalance can cause insulin resistance, prediabetes or even diabetes itself. Our body may produce too much insulin which can cause weight gain and hinder weight loss, especially around our waist.
This is why patients with diabetes who use insulin regularly may notice weight gain as a side effect.
Meeting regularly with a doctor to review your goals and overall health can keep you on the right track.
Keep a positive outlook and make realistic goals.
Some days will be easier than others to follow through with your healthy eating and physical activity goals. Allowing yourself to enjoy the occasional “splurge” while maintaining the confidence to rebound will keep you from throwing in the towel. Remember, your weight loss journey should be a marathon, not a sprint. Making lifestyle changes you can incorporate into life for the long haul will make you most successful.