We’ve all dieted and lost weight. That’s the easy part. The challenge comes when we tire of our self-imposed deprivation of living on kale smoothies and revert to normal life. About 95% of us are weight loss recidivists. Sadly, despite expending so much willpower getting the flab off, we regain every pound we’ve shed and pad on a few extra for good measure. Why? Because we only know two ways of life: (1) we eat whatever strikes our fancy and move as little as possible, or (2) we religiously adhere to the rules of our latest diet and hire a personal trainer. Sound familiar?
Many of us spend our entire adult lives yo-yoing between those two extremes. That behavior brings to mind my favorite definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
If you’ve tired of behaving like the betrayed wife who keeps giving her cheating husband one more chance, it’s time to get real and try a different approach:
Stop Going for the Quick Fix
The only way to maintain a healthy weight in the long run is to develop sound eating habits and stick with them at least 80% of the time. Don’t waste your time choking down Nutrisystem’s packaged, processed, calorie-portioned food. Instead, start focusing on eating smaller portions and making more nutritious choices. By far, the most common reason people gain weight is that they rack up more calories than they need and choose processed foods that come in boxes or are made in fast-food restaurants. Make friends with real food like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Don’t worry, your taste buds will adapt.
Learn How to Live with the Ever Present Temptations
Our world is saturated with drive-thrus and our supermarkets are stocked with highly-addictive chemical-laden products. This is not likely to change. Accept the fact that McDonalds and its ilk are here to stay. The times demand that we develop special junk food avoidance skills to ward off the clarion cry of super-sized burgers, fries, and pizza.
Practice Your Junk Food Avoidance Skills
Our culture makes it very easy to overindulge in food and alcohol. The key to maintaining a healthy weight is to studiously avoid putting yourself in situations that expose you to those tasty treats you know you shouldn’t eat. Imagine that you start the day with a reservoir of willpower and each time you walk-on-by a donut that’s calling your name, your resolve diminishes. Increase your odds of not yielding to temptation by engaging in avoidance behaviors. Don’t buy packaged junk when you shop. Don’t frequent the office kitchen with its Friday morning treats. Tell the waiter you don’t want bread on the table and refuse the dessert menu. These techniques will go a long way toward helping you resist eating extra calories.
Identify an Early Warning System
Avoid the demoralizing experience of regaining the weight you so diligently lost. Adopt a fail-safe early warning system. Your trigger might be 5 extra pounds on the bathroom scale or the fact that your favorite jeans are suddenly feeling uncomfortably tight. Weekly or even daily weigh-ins are an effective reality check. Tracking your food in MyFitnessPal or a similar program works keeps many people accountable. Give yourself non-food rewards, like massages, for staying on track. Choose whatever failsafe mechanism works for you, use it religiously, and you will extricate yourself from yo-yo dieting once and for all.