Weight loss – and more specifically, maintaining your weight loss after it is achieved – is an incredibly difficult endeavor. You put in the hard work, finally see some results, and poof! Almost twice as quickly as it appeared, your trim physique vanishes. Why?
Unfortunately, our subcutaneous body fat is actually an organ. It wants to survive as much as your kidneys or your heart. An active part of the endocrine system, it secretes the hormones leptin and resistin, rendering it almost like a memory foam: our fat is constantly striving to reach equilibrium at its happiest (re: voluminous!) size.
As this article in Live Science points out, gaining the weight back is built into us as humans: “This isn’t a matter of lack of willpower or effort, but of biology: To maintain weight loss, you are essentially fighting a system that’s wired to re-gain lost pounds.”
This sounds frustrating, yes – but recognizing this reality is half the battle. Choosing to focus on healthy, lifestyle diet maintenance becomes the real victor.
First, try this healthy weight calculator to determine where you fall on the BMI scale, and how many calories are needed to maintain or lose. Then consider a few ways to reach your optimum weight and stay in the ballpark:
- Don’t Rely on a Restrictive Diet. You may see swift results with an extreme change in your diet, but it won’t last forever. It’s not practical to juice cleanse every day, or to only eat bacon the rest of your life. Eating too few calories will only serve to slow your metabolism down – you’ll eventually crash and gain it all back – your subcutaneous fat (the organ!) is just waiting for the go-ahead to kick back in to gear. Instead, follow a lifestyle diet. Know your weaknesses and allow room for them – just factor these cravings into your overall caloric goals for the day (like that glass of wine!)
- Weigh Yourself Often. Studies show that those who weigh themselves daily are more likely to make necessary changes to their diet if they veer off from time to time. Don’t fret over a few pounds here and there – typically attributed to water retention. But aim to stay within the frame of 5 lbs, and make an effort to return to your lower number when you get too far away from your goal.
- Exercise or Walk. Daily. This will increase your metabolism and burn calories off more rapidly – tricking that sneaky subcutaneous fat organ into submission. Plus, you are more likely to stick to a healthy plan if you put in the time to exert your body – just don’t use exercise as an excuse to indulge more than usual.
- Substitute Carbs and Focus on Protein. You hear it all the time, but how often do you actually put this to practice? Cut down on starchy breads: Remove half of the burger bun, opt for a lettuce wrap, try a multigrain Wasa cracker instead of a toasted bagel with your weekend brunch. Be subversive to your cravings, and substitute protein wherever you can. Adding more protein into your diet will keep you feeling more full for longer, provide you with sustained energy, and cut the calories in half.
- Track Your Food Intake. Whether it is counting calories or “tracking points,” using a counter app can guide you to learn where most of your calories and fats are coming from – and build awareness about your portion sizes. Visit My Fitness Pal and iTrackBites – both are free and incredibly easy to implement into your routine. Importantly, they come with built in support communities.
- Find a Support System. In addition to weight loss groups and on-line communities, getting a partner or friend involved will increase your likelihood of staying on track. A recent TIME Magazine article highlights the research surrounding maintenance, noting that special programs designed for weight loss maintenance – focusing on support and connecting with an expert – are critical for helping people stay in the zone.
Remember: Dropping even 250-300 calories a day from your diet can mean a difference of 10 lbs to your weight loss! This can be as simple as swapping your whole milk for skim, removing one carb from your daily intake, or trading high-fat cheese for a low-fat variety. These small but steady choices add up (and send the numbers on your scale down)!
Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.