Weight Maintenance and Weight Gain Recovery
Losing over 35 pounds was without a doubt a major turning point in my life. While I have not had much trouble maintaining my weight thanks to regular exercise, healthy habits and real, lasting life style changes, I’ve still had periods over the past few years where a little weight creeps on and I’ve had to make a conscious effort to lose it again.
If I’m not weighing myself regularly, snug clothes are typically my first sign that I need to pay closer attention to what I’m eating. Staying active and getting enough exercise is never a problem – in fact, running is probably what has saved me from ever gaining more than 5 or 10 (ugh) pounds before getting things back under control. It’s portion sizes, sweets and eating between meals that almost always get me in to trouble.
So! When the waist of my pants starts to feel tight, these are the good habits I most typically have to get back to:
1. Lose the Sugar
Dessert, sweets and even high sugar and dried fruits (bananas, melons, pineapple, raisins) are the first things to go if I’m looking to ditch a couple pounds. Taking a break from sugar for a while is not the end of the world, you’ll survive. After a couple of days I completely stop missing it or thinking about it anyway.
2. Watch the Nuts and (especially!!) the Nut Butters
Nuts are of course good for you – but I have a tendency to over do it with the nut butters if I’m not careful. It’s important to remember that nuts (and dried fruit too) are especially calorie dense and add up quickly. There’s not a lot of room for these foods when you are trying to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss.
3. Don’t Eat Until I’m Hungry
If pile of steamed broccoli doesn’t sound appealing, then you’re not really hungry. Waiting to eat until you feel physical signs of hunger is so important. Don’t be afraid to let your stomach actually growl! It feels good to be hungry before you eat – food tastes better when you’re truly hungry! It’s also very important though not to wait too long to eat either – I’ve definitely gone down that road and it can lead to trouble if you’re not careful. Going hungry too long can easily lead to overeating at the next meal or eating opportunity.
If I find myself looking for something to eat and I’m not truly hungry, that’s my sign to ask myself what it is that I’m really hungry for. Am I just bored? Stressed? Overwhelmed? Sometimes thirst can disguise itself as hunger, so making a cup of tea or a bottle of sparkling water can take away that nagging feeling of needing “something”. Exercise can be a great appetite suppressant too. Going for a walk or just getting the heck out of the house can be a great distraction.
If I’m still feeling hungry after all that? It’s time to eat.
4. Three Square Meals a Day
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. That’s it. Sometimes I’ll find that I really am hungry between lunch and dinner, especially if I’ve been particularly active or ate slightly less the day before. In that case, I will consciously prepare a snack to avoid just mindlessly riffling through the fridge or cupboards.
5. Watch Portions
As a lifetime member of the Clean Plate club – putting LESS on my plate is key. Over the years I’ve noticed that I’ll keep eating even when I’m no longer hungry just because there’s still food on my dish or in the container. Being mindful of this is important, but putting less on my plate in the first place makes it that much easier to eat less.
6. No Eating Before Bed
Human growth hormone is your friend. They call it Break Fast for a reason. This can be tough, but once you get into the habit of not eating after dinner it eventually becomes exactly that – a habit. For me, eating at night often has to do with boredom or needing something “stimulating” for entertainment. It’s important to find things that stimulate you besides FOOD. A good book or magazine, planning for the days ahead, organizing closets, cupboards or drawers, de-cluttering, journal writing, yoga. Make a list of your favorite things to do and get that list out when you need to be reminded of the other things you like to do besides eat.
7. The S Day Rule
“No Sweets, No Seconds, No Snacks except for S Days”. Basically, cut yourself some slack with all the above rules on the “S Days”. Saturday, Sunday and Special Days (birthdays, holidays, dinner parties). Knowing that I have a couple days every week where I get to be a bit more loose (but is NOT permission to go WILD! I’m looking at you, Alison.) makes it easier to stick to my good habits on all the non-S days of the week.
8. When All Else Fails, Go Back to Counting Calories
As tedious as calorie counting is and as reluctant as I ALWAYS am get back to it, I can’t deny that it works. Sometimes just a couple days of calorie counting or even food journaling can be enough to remind me of what portion sizes are supposed to look like and how quickly calories can add up. The Daily Plate makes it VERY easy to keep track of calories online – but even a little notebook can work too. In the times following my initial weight loss where I wanted to get serious about re-losing any regained weight, I’ve always had to resort to calorie counting. It works every time.