Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance

How many people love losing weight? It is exciting, and people notice you are looking better, and you may feel energetic and exhilarated by the improvement in your overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, weight loss happens over a finite period, after which you need to work to maintain that weight loss for as long as you can. Weight maintenance is not fun; it is boring, and drudgery, and often doing the same things you did to lose weight, but now need to do just to maintain the weight loss. Here are some ideas to help you maintain that weight loss:

1) Work to establish good habits during your period of weight loss, while you are still enjoying the results of your new behaviours. If you can establish them as part of your life, the way you brush your teeth or shower, while you are still losing weight, it will be easier to maintain them for the long term after the fun part is over.

2) Keep it fresh: every week, change what you are doing, make a new challenge, or try a new recipe. By doing this, you will avoid the boredom that causes people to slide back into old habits.

3) Accept that you will backslide from time to time; behaviour change is very difficult. Don’t dwell on your slips; figure out what happened and work on avoiding the same slip going forward.

January is almost over; vow to work on new habits for a new year, focusing on habits which you can sustain and which will promote good health as you lose weight.

How to Defeat not Eat your Guilt

How many of us have too much to juggle in the course of our daily life? And how much of what we have to juggle is just impossible, keeping balls in the air which we don’t own or even get to hold? When we are doing this, a lot of unnecessary guilt ensues. For many of us, guilt is a primary trigger for emotional eating. Guilt makes us feel bad, we often cannot fix the problem, and a response to it is often to look for a quick feel-good solution. For some, this may be chips in front of the TV, or ice cream in the car outside the drive-in. If guilt is affecting your ability to reach other life goals, to lose weight or be healthy, you may benefit from developing other strategies to manage the guilt.

1) Establish what you can and cannot control. If something you are feeling bad about is out of your control, figure out what you can do about the problem, make an action plan, and work hard to separate yourself from the outcome of the part you cannot control. For example, if changes at work have everyone upset and grumpy, try to focus on your daily tasks and keeping your own mood stable, without getting pulled into others’ discontent. Also make sure you have leisure activities organized for your free time, to keep you busy and not brooding.

2) Validate your feelings – for example, I feel bad that my child is not getting along well in school – and then focus on what you can do which is in your control – an example could be looking into counseling or school-based programs for help, or creating a supportive homework environment at home – but not taking responsibility for either your child or the school.

3) Make a list of at least five things, not including food, that you can do to soothe or comfort yourself; some examples would be to take a bubble bath, talk with a good friend for a while, listen to music through headphones. Not everything works for everyone; figure out what is best for you, then practice doing it whenever you feel stressed.

Life is full of hurdles and irritations; make sure you have ways to cope that help not harm you.

Do it Don’t Wish it

I see clients every week who desperately want to lose weight and get healthier, but who are faced with many barriers to meeting their goals. One problem that I see frequently is that they are setting goals which they have no power to reach, what I call “wish-list goals” rather than action goals. One example of a wish-list goal would be “I am going to lose ten pounds by the end of this month.” Besides the fact that a ten-pound a month weight loss is not either realistic or healthy, this goal ignores the fact that we cannot make ourselves reach a certain weight by wishing for it.

Rather than a wish-list goal, I encourage focusing on an action goal; for example, I am going to eat breakfast at least 4 out of 7 days this week OR I am going to stop eating chips for the next two weeks except for allowing myself one small bag on either Saturday or Sunday. These are goals you can have control over and achieve by focusing on your own actions rather than what the scale is doing.

As you proceed through 2017, make sure that you are setting action goals not wish-list goals; you will feel more empowered and develop confidence by achieving small successes which may lead to your reaching those wish-list goals without even having to focus on them.

Not-the-New-Year Resolutions

So here we are at the end of January, no longer a new year, but one that may already be feeling a bit worn around the edges to you. What has happened to the New Years’ resolutions you made at the end of December, maybe even on New Years’ Eve, in a rush of regret for all the alcohol consumed, all the shortbreads not resisted, the gym membership unused. Where are you with those resolutions now?

There seems to be a human need to start over, get a fresh beginning, which the New Year offers every year as a cure for all our broken promises to ourselves.

What about a different kind of New Year’s resolution? One which acknowledges that as humans, we are, above all, consistent in our inconsistency when it comes to changing bad habits into good. Good habits fit like a new pair of shoes, shiny and beautiful, but causing blisters after a while. Bad habits, on the other hand, fit very comfortably, like an old pair of sweat pants we put on after work. As a dietitian, I work daily with people who recognize the value of changing habits, but struggle with the discomfort of shedding old habits.

Maybe instead of planning sweeping changes once a year, we should work on taking baby steps. One resolution every month, then a check-in every month to see how things are going. How about a February resolution, to get at least 15 minutes of fresh air every day, or a June resolution, to start eating at least one serving of vegetables every day?

Set a date for yourself in your calendar, once a month, to check in with yourself and see what is working and what is not. Maybe your January 1 resolution to go to the gym every day coincided with a bout of family illness, a common theme this January in my house. An honest review of this resolution might reveal that going every day to the gym is not realistic in the best of circumstances, and illness has made it even less attainable. Revise the resolution to promise yourself to go at least once a week, then in March see if this could reasonably be increased to two or even three times. And plan a reward for yourself for getting there as planned: an evening of binge-watching your favourite show, or a massage.

Above all, avoid the temptation to slide into guilt and shame and negative self-talk when you don’t reach your often-lofty goals you have set for yourself. This negative self-talk is in fact our worst enemy, knocking our confidence and discouraging us from moving forward. Remind yourself of your successes, vow to set realistic goals, not unachievable feats, and get a “fresh start” when you decide, not when the calendar says it’s time.
Next time: how to set action goals, not “wish list” goals.