This Is What People Who Keep Weight Off Know That You Don't

by Kate Martino

Losing weight is not easy, but keeping it off long-term is where people tend to struggle the most. The statistic often stated, is that only 5 percent of those who lose weight are able to maintain it long term. Whether this is accurate or not, it is clear that regaining weight is something many can relate to.

There are many choices at our fingertips to help with losing weight. Diets, juice fasts, shakes, detoxes, calorie or food group restrictions and intense fitness programs can all help you lose weight initially. Plus, the initial motivation and excitement you feel to reach a weight that you're happiest with, helps you stay on track.

But once you reach your goals and life starts throwing obstacles your way, the motivation and excitement you felt in getting to that point fades. It is difficult to maintain the weight loss you achieved for life. Though, it is not impossible; not if you adopt lifestyle habits that last, well, for a lifetime.

Below I am sharing five secrets to help you lose weight and keep it off for good. I know from experience. Each of these have helped me achieve long-term weight loss, while I still enjoy foods I love and living life more now than ever.

1. Don't Diet

Diets imply an end point, unrealistic goals, like as losing a lot of weight in just 30 days and typically come with unpleasant and unsustainable rules or changes.

By the time you reach your goal weight or end point, you most likely feel deprived. Since it took so much willpower and felt difficult at times, you want to reward yourself. Rewards can be a great motivator, but often come in the form of favorite indulgences, which can lead down a path of regaining the weight that was lost.

Even if you continue eating healthy after a diet, you haven't necessarily learned a sustainable and enjoyable approach to weight loss and maintenance. To be successful at both, it is important to adopt new lifestyle habits that work best for you. These lifestyle habits can look different for everyone and suit personal schedules, preferences and goals. The lifestyle approach offers so much more flexibility and allows the process to actually be enjoyable.

2. Make realistic short and long-term goals

The saying “slow and steady wins the race” applies to weight management among many other things. Diets promising drastic weight loss in a short amount of time are typically too good to be true, and even if they deliver on the promise, what happens when it's over?

Those that are successful in losing weight and keeping it off, make small goals that help them achieve their larger goal. For example, a small goal could be walking 5,000 more steps a day or cutting sugary beverage consumption down by half. Making small, manageable changes over time is helpful to develop a new routine, rather than trying to master many changes at once.

The long-term goal comes in handy when you feel less motivated or don't feel like following through with a short-term goal. Long-term goals give purpose to the short term ones and can help you stay on track. The bigger goals that keep you going aren't necessarily as simple as losing 50 pounds; they're more like, fitting into your old favorite dress, being able to keep up with the kids and feeling more confident in a bathing suit. These kinds of goals are typically the true motivators.

3. Abolish “cheating”

Knowing when to indulge and when to cut back is important in the lifestyle approach. Indulgences are not considered cheating and weekends consisting of a happy hour, a BBQ with friends and skipping the gym are not considered “falling off the wagon.” It's considered balance, and those with this in mind, think nothing of getting right back to their routine of healthy eating and exercising after allowing some fun indulgences. In a lifestyle plan, there is no diet or strict rules, so there's no cheating.

4. Manage stress and emotions in other ways than food

Emotional eating is one of the main factors contributing to overindulging in comfort foods that are high in carbohydrates, fats and calories. Those utilizing the lifestyle approach often realize that this ritual doesn't actually make them feel better. It typically feeds feelings of guilt and failure, causes sugar crashes that worsen those emotions and makes it difficult to get back to a healthier eating pattern.

It's impossible to completely separate emotions from eating, but it's better to refocus the emotions to positive ones and associate eating with nourishing the body, enjoying time with friends and family and feeling energized, happy and healthy afterwards. This way, choosing healthier foods becomes enjoyable.

Other ways to manage stress and negative emotions are meditating, finding a workout you love like yoga, walking, swimming, CrossFit, Barre or spending time doing other enjoyable activities like playing an instrument or learning a new skill. The possibilities are endless, and can help you improve your wellbeing as well as maintain weight loss.

5. Plan and prepare

Life can get busy and exhausting. Between working long hours, never ending to-do lists and traveling, it's no wonder you'd want to rely on fast and convenient meal and snack options. Choosing less healthy foods to save time can take its toll after the years, but can cause fatigue and weight gain in the present. Those who successfully lose weight and keep it off long term, plan ahead to avoid relying on foods of convenience.

Anticipate the bumps in the road that make you less motivated or throw you off track, like having no time, being tired and feeling stressed. Then plan how you'll make it easier to keep going when obstacles arise.

Meal planning and preparing for the week is one of the most common ways to make healthier living and eating easier. Simply plan meals based on what's in season, on sale, or what you're craving. Then, devote a couple hours at the start of the week to prepare, like clean and chop ingredients, pre-make the time consuming components and even portion meals so they're ready for you to grab and go.

I hope we can take a collective stand against dieting, say no to deprivation, extreme calorie or food group restriction and adopt habits that promote health, weight management and enjoying life. Very few people are able to lose weight and keep it off long term, but approaching it in a different way than dieting can make all the difference and help many more succeed.

Those extra pounds likely took years to put on, so there are no quick fixes in losing them and keeping them off. It's nearly impossible to make drastic changes in a short amount of time. It's best to adopt healthy habits slowly and sustain them. Keeping these five approaches to weight loss in mind, can help you reach your goals and enjoy the process while allowing for flexibility.

Starting slow and adopting just one at a time can still show great benefits.