Anyone setting out to lose a significant amount of weight should understand the struggles they might face. Whether it be a hard time trying to adjust to a new diet, getting used to a new workout schedule (or a first time workout schedule), or just having the self-confidence to get through each day, weight loss can be a huge challenge. Not to mention the constant pressure one can feel from family and friends (both to lose weight or to ditch your diet of choice).
But perhaps the harder part of losing weight comes after the initial weight loss. It is then that many people start gaining weight back. For many, the decision to follow through on a diet and lose weight is only the first part of the equation. After reaching their goal weight, dieters often find that keeping the weight off permanently is harder than getting the weight off originally. There are several reasons that this occurs, which might seem like reason enough to not lose the weight at all. However, there are also many ways to help program your mind and body to deal with weight loss and your new lower weight self.
In order to overcome the possibility of gaining weight back after losing it, you first need to understand why your body reacts the way it does. Like any other aspect of your life, being in one weight for an extended period of time puts your body into a routine. At the very basic level, your body’s cells have stretched to contain the fat they are currently storing. Having been stretched to their current capacity forces your cells into a pattern of being stretched. This causes your body to want to retain the weight you are trying to lose. As you lose weight, your metabolism slows in an attempt to keep the status quo.
There are a few other factors that play into the possibility of gaining weight back that have nothing to do with your body’s physiology itself. Instead, these other factors are a part of personal choices and surrounding atmosphere. Most people, particularly dieters, are familiar with comfort foods and emotional eating. When disregarded or ignored, emotional eating almost always leads to gaining weight back. Stressful situations such as work issues, family problems, and financial stress, can add to the tendency to indulge in comfort foods without restraint. The common excuse comes in the form of “I’ll work it off later” or “I’ll just cheat on my diet today, it’s not a big deal.” This can lead to uncontrolled eating which obviously leads to gaining weight back.
Forgetting to carefully monitor the type and amount of food that enters your body is especially a concern when you are dealing with extra amounts of work or scheduling conflicts. Often, the gym or home workouts are the first thing to be cut from an overloaded schedule. Grabbing a quick meal, be it drive-thru, microwave, or simply snack food, becomes a way of squeezing a few more minutes out of the day. Once again, however, this opens the door wide for the possibility of gaining weight back. It is far too easy to let your weight slide without noticing it if your schedule is too busy or if you are not specifically concentrating on your weight, as often happens after one has reached their ideal goal weight. Once the desired target has been reached, the diet can be quickly forgotten as a quick-fix and not a lifestyle.
This is the most common reason for yo-yo dieting and gaining weight back after losing it. If you do not spend time learning life skills to help keep excess weight off after your desired weight is reached, you are almost certain to gain back at least the weight you lost, if not more than originally lost.
There are precautions to take and skills to learn while still in the dieting phase of your weight loss that will ensure your success in keeping off the weight you lose. First, choose realistic goals. This goes for the diet and food you choose, the workout style you decide on, and the final outcome you wish to achieve. You cannot expect to lose fifty pounds overnight, nor to keep it off if you do not change your eating habits.
To this extent, be sure to choose a unrestrictive diet which is something that you will be able to maintain long-term. Diets that remove an entire food group will not help you be successful in the long run. When considering a diet, ask yourself if you can honestly live without that certain food forever. Can you live without carbs, chocolate, juice, pasta, or grandma’s famous mashed potatoes because of your diet, for the remainder of your life? It may seem extreme, and certainly there are short-term diets that work by removing one entire food group (low or no-carb diets come to mind first), but in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle after your weight loss goals are reached, you must be able to stick to your diet with consistency. A balanced diet in smaller portions will be more effective both now and later than a restrictive diet that forces you to live without your favorite foods.
Of course exercise comes to mind when deciding on a weight loss goal and plan, but this is another area in which you must plan carefully for a lifestyle. Life will always get busy again. Kids have projects due, in-laws are in town, it’s the holidays, work is too busy, so you need to plan ahead for those times. Choose a workout that fits your ability and preferences. Do not start weight lifting if you are more comfortable running and do not start running ten miles a day if you have been sedentary for years. Start small, with realistic workout goals, and work up to your final fitness goal. Taking weight loss and workouts at a healthy pace will ensure better success in your dieting efforts.
The most important planning step, however, is to prepare yourself for the end goal. Achieving your goal weight may seem like the end of your worries, but without proper preparation, you will end up gaining weight back. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the physical changes that will occur when you get yourself on the right track with diet and fitness. Plan to get rid of clothing that will be too large since keeping it can give a mental safety net of “Well, these extra few pounds coming back aren’t such a big deal. I still have clothes that fit.” The ultimate goal is to lose the weight and keep it off, so remember to take it slow and ease yourself into the new mentality of seeing a skinnier, more fit YOU in the mirror.
The biggest reason for gaining weight back is the wrong mentality. With a good plan and clear mind, you can lose excess weight and keep it off. Be sure to choose a diet you can live with long-term, pick exercises you can stick with even when life gets busy, and keep a positive mindset about the new you. To be successful, remember one key idea, weight loss is a continuing journey for life, rather than a numerical destination for the moment.