I can speak on the subject of dieting with some authority because I consider myself an expert in weight loss. What makes me an expert? I lost weight more times than I care to admit. Losing weight was always the easy part for me, maintaining it was the ultimate challenge. It took me a long time to figure out how to lose the weight and keep it off for life.
You can learn from my experiences so you don't make the same mistakes. These are a few of the lessons that I learned when I ultimately figured out how to keep the weight off for good. There are certain ways of thinking that sabotaged my efforts and once I overcame them, I was able to maintain a healthy weight.
THINGS DIETERS DO THAT MAINTAINERS DON'T
GO ON (AND OFF) DIETS
It's been proven time and time again; diets don't work. Instead of setting up strict rules about what you can and can not eat, it is more effective to make healthy choices most of the time and allow some room in your lifestyle for treats in moderation. Getting over the all-or-nothing mindset was a game changer for me. When there's no wagon, you can't fall off it.
CUT OUT ENTIRE MACRONUTRIENT GROUPS
A lot of the popular fad diets cut out entire macronutrient groups. The fat-free diet was popular in 90s, then it was all about low-carb. The truth is we need all of the macronutrients, protein, carbs and fats in our diets. Protein helps repair and build muscle. Carbs are our body's preferred energy source and fats are essential for protection of our organs and insulation of nerve cells. Focus on the quality (whole foods) and quantity of each macronutrient instead of cutting anything out completely. Fats don't make you fat. Carbs don't make you fat. Eating more calories than you expend (from any source) causes fat storage.
DON'T EAT ENOUGH
Eating very low calories can cause your metabolism to slow down to compensate. When you don't eat enough you are probably missing specific vitamins and minerals because you are not eating a wide variety of whole foods in your diet. It can make you feel terrible, sluggish and cranky. Very low calorie diets can often lead to overindulgences later. Eat a wide variety of quality foods in the proper portions for your activity levels to look, feel and perform your best.
OBSESS OVER THE SCALE
The scale is a tool and only one measure of success. Stepping on the scale every day and obsessing over every fluctuation can cause unnecessary anxiety. Focus on non-scale victories: How do your clothes fit? How do you feel? How are your workouts?
The scale doesn't tell the whole story and often tells an inaccurate one. Focus on fat loss, not just weight loss. Losing water will make the number drop on the scale, so will losing muscle, and that it something we want to avoid. Step on the scale every once in awhile to make sure your weight is trending in the right direction, but obsessing over the scale isn't the answer.
RUSH THE PROCESS
You wouldn't turn up the temperature in the oven to cook your dinner faster and weight loss doesn't work that way either. Learn to enjoy the journey because there is no finish line. Look for sustainable ways to live a healthy lifestyle. It took time to put on the weight and it may take some time to take it off.
I look at it like this: What if it took a year to take off the weight? It seems like a long time, but you can play the long game, the slow approach and do it in a safe, sane and sustainable manner. Or you could spend the next year going on and off diets and exercise programs and not make any actual real progress in the same time frame. Slow and steady really does win the race.
DON'T SLEEP ENOUGH
Sleep and stress management are often overlooked completely but an important part of any fat loss plan. Aim to sleep seven to eight hours per night. Participate in stress-relieving activities whether it be meditation, prayer, bubble baths, massages, reading or low intensity physical activity like walking or Yoga. High levels of stress can cause your body to hold on to fat.
EAT "DIET" FOODS
Food marketing is tricky these days. It is easy to be fooled by marketing labels that advertise health foods that are not healthy at all. They use labels like all-natural, low fat, low carb, organic, sugar-free, Gluten-free and healthy on all kinds of processed foods that are not healthy at all.
If it says "diet" on the package it is likely an unhealthy processed food. You can absolutely enjoy these types of foods in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle, just as long as you eat them with full knowledge that they are not health foods.
Try to stick to whole foods from nature most of the time.
Strength training can help you maintain lean muscle while you work to lose weight. Muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat, so a person with more muscle burns more calories at rest. Strength training increases lean mass, which increases calorie burn throughout the day. You don't have to try to look like a bodybuilder, some simple bodyweight or dumbbell exercises can help you maintain or increase lean mass.
Cardio exercise can help put you in a calorie deficit, which is important for weight loss. For best results include a balance of both strength and cardio in your weekly schedule.
Do any of these sound familiar? Have you made any of the same mistakes that I did? Is there anything you may need to work on? Take it one step at a time. Let me know if you have any questions. I am happy to help.
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I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and nutrition coaching. If you are interested in coaching, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help.
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While I am a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, I am not your personal trainer and nutrition coach. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise or diet program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.