Britton and I have been watching the HBO documentary, The Weight of the Nation lately. It’s very long and broken up into 4 or 5 parts that you can watch directly at: The Weight of the Nation for free!
I’ve found a lot of it very interesting and will try to highlight some of them here. One topic that was very interesting and that I had also read in other books was the idea that people who have lost weight will forever have to eat less calories than people who are naturally at the weight that they dropped to in order to maintain that weight loss. In other words, naturally skinny people really can eat more than a skinny dieter! Sounds like a raw deal, and really it is. But it also explains why losing weight initially might work, but keeping it off, or maintaining that weight loss is so hard.
You basically have to cut out the same percentage of calories as the percentage of weight that you dropped. So if you were 200 pounds and drop 20 pounds, you will have to cut out 10%-20% of your calories from your diet (or increase calorie expenditure aka exercise to make up the difference) forever just to maintain that decrease! But a person who is naturally 180 pounds can eat that additional 10% more than you and stay 180 pounds even without exercise. If you do that, however, you’ll be back to 200 in no time. Not fair! Right? All that work to lose weight and you can’t even eat like a naturally thinner person!
Watch this video or skip through and watch at about 5:25 -8:00
The reason for this is that once we have hit a new high weight and especially if we’ve been at that weight for a while, our body will think of that as the new “set point”. If we go under that set body weight, our body tries to regulate it back to the “normal” set point -even if it is overweight or obese! We will have a heightened response to food, won’t feel satiated as quickly, slow our metabolism and extract as many calories from food as possible. The body thinks we are starving to death and will do everything it can to get back to “normal”.
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that there are many, many people who HAVE beat the odds and lost weight and kept it off. According to the National Weight Control Registry that tracks thousands of people who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for at least a year, these are the tips they employ for keeping the pounds from creeping back up:
How to lose weight and keep it off for good!
- Be realistic- Know what a healthy weight looks like. Don’t try to be the thinnest you can possibly be. Choose a healthy weight that you are comfortable with. Some say a BMI of about 22 is the healthiest for a grown adult. Children should be at a lower BMI on the scale. (To see what your healthy BMI would be [between 18 and 24.9] check out this BMI calculator)
- Eat Breakfast -nearly 90% of people who lose weight and keep it off eat breakfast most days.
- Move More -people who lose weight and keep it off move more than their sedentary counterparts. The most favored activity is walking and they do it practically every day at least 3-4 miles
- Know what a portion size really looks like -many people gain weight because they simply eat the “portion” that is in front of them. The people who have lost weight and kept it off are very vigilant about knowing the correct sized portions and calories in everything they bring to their lips
- Keep a Food/Exercise Journal -those most successful with weight loss keep a food/exercise diary. This can be just a simple notebook or an online tool. Kelly and I use www.myfitnesspal.com. It is free and has an extensive list of foods and cardio exercises along with the calorie counts and other nutrition information.
- Plan for difficult days -Stressful events or even parties can easily wreck havoc on your diet intentions. Plan how to handle these BEFORE they happen. For example, if you usually snack on ice cream (my favorite bad treat ) when you are stressed have a plan that you will go for a 20 minute walk and then eat some fruit. Or if you’re going to a potluck dinner make a plan that you will fill half your plate with the raw veggie tray and that you can have a taste of three things that interest you. You know yourself the best, but plan ahead!
- Weigh yourself regularly -Most of the successful people who have lost weight weigh themselves daily or weekly. Other ways to get feedback on your weight is how well your clothes fit. Don’t obsess about it, but when you see the numbers creeping up, cut back a little more and/or add a few more minutes of walking or other favorite activities.
- Be Consistent -even on the weekends and holidays try to keep your food/exercise schedule the same. You can splurge here and there for special occasions, but a special occasions should not be a weekly or even monthly occurrence. Stay consistent and in the long-run your weight will too.
- Practice makes Perfect- You may never again get to eat all you want, whenever you want, but with practice, you will get better and better at maintaining your new lifestyle as a slimmer, healthier you.
I am practicing these tips through my current weight loss journey. I have lost about 5 pounds and would like to lose another 15 -25.
The biggest lesson I think in all of this is to at the very least maintain your current weight and not go higher because that will result in a higher “set point”. If you don’t have to lose that weight in the first place, it’s much easier than the struggle once it’s there.
What do you think? Has weight loss been a challenge in your life? What has worked for you to keep it off?