Losing weight is tough, that’s no secret. If you’ve ever attempted to lose weight, you know how much of a struggle it can be.
However, what’s even tougher than losing weight, is keeping it off!
Many individuals lose weight each year but end up right back where they started within months or years (usually, having been unable to maintain the behaviors that led them to weight loss being a key contributor).
It is clear (because of the rates of weight regain) that weight loss maintenance is just as (if not more) important than the weight loss itself.
If you’ve put in months of hard work, the last thing you want is to end up right back where you started, right?
Well, by implementing the following 5 behavior maintenance strategies you can increase your chances of successful weight loss maintenance so that you do not just lose the weight, but keep it off!
The 5 Strategies
- Maintenance Motives
In order to sustain a behavior, you must have a sufficient enough reason to continue it. If YOU see no reward or benefit being produced by the new behavior, it is highly unlikely that you will continue it (notice the emphasis on you). What is generally seen as rewarding or beneficial to most may not be sufficient for you. The reward has to be sufficient for you personally. Preferably, a strong, emotionally connected reason.
We are highly impacted by instant gratification, so a dull, impersonal motive will not fair well with that temptation to skip a workout, eat that box of cookies, or drive past Mcdonald’s on the way home from work.
With each change you are going to make, truly seek out the benefits and how it positively impacts your life (as well as the lives of your loved ones). Make yourself aware of these in times of struggle/temptation (using a card with these points on it can be a great way to remind yourself the true benefits of your behavior change in hard times).
Studies have shown that those who monitor and regulate their new behaviors (as well as their progress) are more likely to continue them. “In a multiple regression equation, each category of self-monitoring contributed significantly to the prediction of weight loss. Furthermore, the independent analysis showed a significant association between each self-monitoring behavior and weight loss. Overall, the use of self-monitoring was found to have a high impact on weight management.” (2) Things such as doing frequent self-weigh ins, tracking daily steps, being aware of your emotions during times of relapse (as well as when passing up temptation), and keeping a food log are some examples that may help you lose more weight as well as increase your chances of keeping it off.
Remember, however, that what works great for some will work poorly for others. Some find weighing themselves once a day effective, while others find that unnecessary and sometimes turns negative (through confusion or frustration by weight fluctuations).
The key with any advice you receive is to find its effectiveness for YOU and/or to keep what works and discontinue what does not. Regardless of the particular way you choose to monitor your new behaviors (exercise, nutrition, physical activity, etc), it would be wise to do so to increase your chances of long-term success.
-Keep a food log (not necessarily counting calories, just tracking the food)
-Check your weight once a week, comparing the numbers every 4 weeks
-Use a pedometer throughout the day to track your daily activity
-Track your workouts, strength and/or endurance progress
-Keep a journal, diary, etc tracking your relapses and the emotions, situational context, etc before, during, and after
Having the proper resources (or tools and skills) is extremely important for behavior change maintenance. Having plenty of psychological as well as physical resources is important to maintaining new behaviors. The less abundant and relevant the tools, the harder the task will be. On the contrary, the more abundant and relevant the tools are, the easier the task becomes.
Do some studying on topics such as weight loss, exercise, and behavior change. Just getting a basic knowledge and understanding of these 3 topics can really benefit you in your weight loss and/or fitness goals. Just be careful where you get the information and understand that if it promises quick, easy results, is “cutting edge”, etc it is probably not honest, scientific information (so you should ignore it or be cautious at best).
Regarding physical tools, have a small, economical home gym set up in your home if possible. Even if it is just a doorway pull up bar and a set up push up stands for example (which is all you truly need). Getting a food log app on your phone or a food scale are some other examples of obtaining the proper tools for your goals (and they will vary per individual). Just remember, the easier it is to do the new behavior, the more likely it is that you will continue it.
Habits are behaviors that we have continually done over a period of time, to the point that our brains have learned to “more efficiently” perform them (without as much thought and focus). Developing habits help in maintaining our behaviors for the simple fact that (as long as context remains the same) we do the behavior without much thought and effort. If we can place our focus on making habits out of the behaviors that will lead us to our goals instead of being so particular on how to achieve it, we will be much better off. By that (“being so particular”) I mean, putting less focus on what’s the “best”, “hottest”, “newest” diet or workout program out there and just make habits out of regular exercise, physical activity and eating a healthy diet. More on creating healthy habits here.
- Environmental & Social Influences
Making your social group and environment work with you, not against you is extremely important for behavior change maintenance. Having healthy relationships with individuals whom have the same or similar goals is a great way to create a positive social influence on you and your goals. Likewise, having a group of people who encourage your good behaviors and hold you accountable for the bad ones can really increase your chances of success.
Creating a positive environment is another crucial aspect to your success in behavior change maintenance. Having healthy foods readily available in your home while keeping unhealthy foods out is a great way to do this. Making a small home gym is also a great way to make your environment promote positive/healthy behaviors (or signing up for a gym that you pass on your way home). I’ll say it again, the easier a behavior is, the more likely it is that we will continue doing it.
Losing weight can be a real challenge for many of us. However, what seems to (possibly) be harder is maintaining the weight we lose.
Often times we adopt behaviors that cannot be sustained (we seek out short-term solutions to our problems). Quick fixes are sought after instead of sustainable behaviors that will continue to produce the results we first sought out.
Next time you plan for fat loss (or any change), make sure to acknowledge these 5 key strategies for behavior change maintenance so that you can increase your chances of losing that unwanted fat and keeping it off.
I hope you enjoyed the post, please feel free to comment with questions and/or your thoughts on weight loss maintenance strategies.
Thanks for reading,