You lose weight, you gain weight, you lose weight, you gain weight… This is the cycle called yo-yo dieting. It’s a common problem. Even celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Kirstie Alley struggle to maintain their weight, despite having a whole team of personal trainers and nutritionists. So what’s the problem, and more importantly, how do we conquer it?
The fact is, it’s easier to shed fat than to change habits or mindsets. However, that’s how the battle over weight is won. Once you embrace the following tips, you can finally break the cycle of yo-yo dieting and take charge of your health, once and for all.
1. Stay away from shortcuts.
Fad diets may help you shed calories, but how long can you actually eat nothing but cabbage soup or expensive slimming shakes? The only way to lose weight and keep it off is through healthy eating and regular exercise. You’ll shed, on average, a pound a week, and there may be times when your weight loss will plateau. However, you’ll feel healthier and establish habits that are not only effective, but realistic.
Why is that important? It’s impossible to starve yourself without feeling sluggish and cranky the whole day. Sooner or later your work performance or even your relationships will suffer, and sheer starvation (or a sense of deprivation) will push you back into binge eating. The real key is to create the habits that you can maintain even after you reach your diet goal.
2. Think beyond the weighing scale.
Many people start a diet because they want to shed a particular number of pounds, or fit in a dress in time for a wedding or a high school reunion. With admirable, single-minded purpose, they achieve that goal. But look what happens next. Once they hit that magic number, or once they finish that make-or-break event, they slack off and return to old habits. The pounds come back, and with a vengeance. Sometimes they end up weighing more than they did in the first place!
But let’s take a bigger, more holistic goal: not to lose weight, not to impress classmates, but to live your best life. Being healthy isn’t just about fitting in a dress. It’s having the energy to do what you love. It’s living a longer life so you can dance at your daughter’s wedding. It’s feeling good, every day, because of the natural endorphins of exercise plus knowing that you’re looking and feeling much younger than your years.
Take that bigger perspective, and you’ll see better results—because you’ll never run of motivation.
3. Rechannel emotional eating.
A lot of people turn to eating to “feed” a much deeper emotional craving. That’s why they call it “comfort food”—which is okay if you’re just looking for a hot bowl of your favorite soup when you’re having a bad day, but gets destructive when you scarf down whatever that doesn’t move whenever you’re depressed.
The key is to listen to your emotions, and recognize when you’re feeling sad or anxious, but to turn to other, non-food ways to make yourself feel better. For example, instead of staying home to wallow in self pity (and a giant bowl of chips and dip) call a friend and watch an inspiring movie together. Or, find a hobby that keeps your hands (and mind) busy—it’s impossible to crochet and eat ice cream at the same time, right?
4. Mix up your exercise routines.
Many people get bored with their exercise routines. The novelty of going to the gym or jogging wanes, and they return to a sedentary lifestyle.
When this happens, look for ways to inject variety into your workouts. Sick of kickboxing? Sign up for a poledancing class. Bored with lifting weights? Maybe you’ll enjoy bicycling or yoga. It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re burning calories, strengthening your muscles (and maintaining a high metabolism).
5. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
Sometimes, you sabotage your success by creating unrealistic weight loss goals. Let’s say you’re 5’6 and have naturally big bones. You can’t expect to reach 120 pounds and look like Kate Moss! But since you’re only motivated by that image of beauty and sexiness, you get so upset at yourself that you give up—even when you’ve already made so much progress and feel fitter and healthier than ever before.
Remember, your goal isn’t to look like somebody else but to be the best you. Decide on a reasonable weight loss goal, and you’ll be proud of your progress and be more likely to maintain the great habits that you first developed.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
It’s okay to indulge in your cravings (just keep the servings small). Or, even if you do go nuts at Thankgsiving dinner and eat way too many slices of pie, forgive yourself and resolve to get back on your regular diet programming tomorrow. Sometimes, we’re so obsessed with being “perfect” that one single indulgence or binge session sets off a domino effect. “There goes my diet… oh well… I knew I couldn’t do it…” Yes, you can. In fact, you have. You’re just human, and one little episode won’t ruin your diet unless you let it.
7. Eat slowly…but more frequently.
The secret to avoiding binge eating is to never reach a point when you’re starving. Eat smaller, but more frequent meals so even if you do encounter a double chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream you’re too full to eat the whole thing. Plus, when you eat, slow down and savor every bite. This not only lets you enjoy your food more (so every calorie is worth it!) but allows your brain to register when you’re full (which takes at least 20 minutes).