The real key to the weight loss process has nothing to do with actually losing the weight. Most of us can easily figure out how to cut enough calories to do that, right? What we can't figure out is how to keep that weight off.
There are a number of reasons we regain weight: Following unrealistic diets or exercise programs we can't sustain, for example, or completely giving up on healthy eating and exercise during the holidays. We also tend to think that there's an end to all of this healthy lifestyle stuff. That, as soon as you lose the weight, you can finally enter the 'maintenance' phase of your program which, for many of us, means we don't have to exercise as much and we can finally stop monitoring every single bite we take.
Unfortunately, there is no maintenance phase to the weight loss process. To keep the weight off, you have to do at least as much exercise as you did to lose the weight and, frankly, you may have to do more. The more weight you lose, the less energy your body expends during exercise and the more you have to do to get the same results. Not fair, I know.
So, keeping the weight off has more to do with how you start the weight loss process than how you finish it. To that end, you have to set yourself up for success and to do that you'll need to find a few things:
- A Way of Eating You Can Live With for the Long Term. Notice I didn't say 'diet,' simply because most of us can't follow a diet for more than a few weeks at a time. Diets, by their very definition, involve restrictions and while we can usually handle a certain amount of restriction for the short-term, in the long-term, we rebel. Sometimes, violently. You may find more success by moving away from the dieting mentality and more towards a way of eating. Or maybe it's time to ditch dieting altogether. More about creating a healthy diet.
- An Exercise Program You Can Live With for the Long Term. There are so many ways to exercise these days, almost anyone can find something. Exercise at home, at the gym, using videos, using free online workouts, using email exercise programs, working out with a friend, with a trainer, with your dog, on your bike, with your Wii...the possibilities are endless. So, where do you start? First, you start with something simple like a walking program, this 6 Week Program for Beginners or whatever sounds doable to you. Then you do the following:
- Don't give up just because you hate something the first time you try it. Everything will feel hard at first, so give yourself a chance to practice a few times before deciding whether something works or not. Try to find workouts that fit your personality.
- Start easy to avoid burnout and injury. Think of the first few weeks of exercise as a learning phase for both your body and mind. This isn't the time to go all out...you can do that later, when you've built some strength and endurance.
- Don't be surprised if your weight doesn't change all that much during the first few weeks or months. That's normal, so don't stop working out just because the scale doesn't change.
- Forget about weight loss. It sounds crazy, but forgetting about weight loss and focusing on being healthy can actually lead to greater weight loss success.
Keeping the weight off would be so much easier if there were just one thing you had to do. And, depending on how you look at it, there is just one thing to do to keep the weight off and that is: Keep your calories balanced. It's that balancing act that requires constant maintenance because it changes from day to day. Getting your mental strategies in order is just as important as the physical strategies and it may help to think about it like this: At its heart, weight loss will happen if you just learn how to take care of yourself. Once you start doing that, you may be surprised that you don't care as much about the scale anymore.