Losing weight is one thing – keeping it off is another issue entirely, and one that has been tripping up even the most diligent dieters for decades. To help make sure all your hard work pays – and stays – off, we’ve put together seven simple but effective strategies for keeping your body in the shape you worked so long to achieve. Maintaining a healthy weight comes down to common sense and subtly shifting the way you view food. Read on to find out what we mean.
Don’t deprive yourself
Not eating enough calories in a day is a one-way ticket to overeating later in the week. You may have been on a strict diet that limited the amount of calories you consumed, but it will be next to impossible to maintain that level of commitment now that you’ve reached your goal weight. Never let yourself get to the point where you feel like you’re starving – that feeling where your stomach seems like it could turn inside out from the lack of sustenance. Once you’re that hungry, every healthy eating tip and strategy you’ve ever read or heard will go straight out the window as you make a beeline toward an extra-large double-cheese pizza with a milkshake chaser.
Treat yourself in small doses
If you love chocolate ice cream, but you’ve said you’ve sworn it off for good, at some point that self-imposed ice cream embargo is going to cause a lot of problems. The longer you go without allowing yourself a treat, the greater the risk of breaking down at some point and eating three pints of the cold stuff. Everything is OK in moderation – buy your favorite treats in individually wrapped containers or create one-serving treat packs out of the full-size container. The point is to never feel like you can’t have something – because we all know that eventually we all want what we can’t have.
Eat less food, more often
To avoid feeling deprived (and consequently inhaling that oversize pizza) you need to eat less food, more often. Small meals don’t work for everyone, but if you want to feel satisfied (and not starving) all day, then spreading out your meals is a great tactic. Eating five or even six smaller meals can really make a big difference in your energy level and how you feel overall. Larger, heavy meals are harder to digest and often leave you feeling sluggish, whereas you’ll feel lighter all day eating smaller meals, and be much more able to control cravings.
What feels like hunger can actually be thirst in disguise, so if you find yourself contemplating a stroll to the vending machine, make sure you’re adequately hydrated before you give in to a snack attack. It’s easy to forget about drinking water when you’re busy, whether it’s meeting deadlines, in meetings, or wrangling small children – but drinking enough water is a great way to avoid eating when you’re not really hungry at all. Keep a pitcher on your desk filled with water and an inviting dash of berries, cucumbers and slices of orange to give yourself more incentive to sip.
We all snack, and snacking isn’t a bad thing – it’s the snack choices that can get us into trouble. Anything sugary and full of white flour (cookies, cakes) will give you a burst of energy – then you will crash, staring blankly at your computer screen wondering what just happened. When you’re tired or frustrated it’s easy to reach for the comfort snacks but what you need is fuel, not something that offers no nutritional value. Instead of chips and cupcakes grab or pack one of the following:
- Half of an apple covered in almond butter
- Plain, low-fat yogurt topped with ground flax seeds and frozen raspberries
- A handful (12-14) of raw almonds
- Vegetables and hummus
- Low-sodium vegetable juice
- Celery sticks with peanut butter
Rethink your plate
Your plate is a good indicator of whether you’re going to have trouble maintaining your ideal weight or not. If it’s filled with simple carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes) and meat, you might have some trouble keeping the weight off. A better-looking plate would be divided like so: half vegetables, a quarter whole grains and a quarter protein.
Focus on whole foods
Trade packaged meals for more whole foods if you want to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re not inspired, take a trip to your local farmers market to see the fresh bounty that’s available – likely much more appealing and colorful than what’s in those boxes at your grocery store. Fresh, seasonal produce doesn’t require a lot of work; in fact, simple preparation is best so you don’t have to worry about slaving over a hot stove to make a meal. It can be hard to veer away from prepared, diet-friendly meals with a calorie count printed on the front, ready to be popped into the microwave, but those aren’t going to offer the nutrition your body needs to really thrive.