180 Nutrition: You’ve been working hard the past few weeks, months, or even years and you’ve finally reached the magic number on the scales you’ve been aiming for! What a great feeling! There’s nothing more satisfying than reaching a weight loss goal; you feel the best you’ve felt in years, you look even better, you’ve got more energy and confidence but most importantly; you’re healthier.
After following a rigorous exercise plan and a strict diet for so long, you can forgive yourself for thinking that you’ve now earned a bit of a break as far as your health and fitness are concerned. Whether you’ve reached the goal of slimming down for a holiday or special occasion, it’s time to enjoy some delicious treats and give your body a rest from those gruelling cardio sessions.
While that’s the obvious thought process for anyone who’s reached their target weight, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s a treacherous way to look at it. Because now you’ve reached your weight loss goal, the goal is to reinforce some healthy habits to maintain it.
If you don’t start a maintenance program after you’ve reached your target weight, you will find yourself slipping back to square one before you’ve even noticed. The old habits will return with gusto, so it’s essential that you have some effective strategies in place right from the outset.
Here are our top 10 tips for weight maintenance to make sure that those changes you’ve worked so hard to reach in your health and fitness, last forever…
1) Move your body regularly
Exercise and daily movement shouldn’t just be something that you do to reach a weight loss goal; it should be a permanent part of your daily routine. Make time to move your body every day but if this isn’t possible then a minimum of three exercise windows per week should be your goal. Depending on your physical capabilities, mix this up with weight-based training, cardio, and lighter exercise such as a swim or power-walk.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or not; your body won’t thank you for a break from exercise, it needs it to function at its very best.
2) Earn your carbs
If you’ve an interest in nutrition, you’ll know all about the effects of processed vs whole food carbs on your body. While everyone is different, the rule of thumb is that you should earn your carbs depending on your level of activity. Eat a small portion of complex carbs (such as sweet potato or brown rice) after you’ve worked out but if you’re inactive, try and reduce them from your diet and track how you feel.
3) Increase your protein intake
Protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer, add a serve of protein to each meal to avoid unnecessary hunger pangs which tempt you with the sweet treats or unhealthy snacks. Breakfast is usually where many of us struggle with the majority of breakfast options offering little more than a carb-fest. If this sounds like you then a simple smoothie could offer the much-needed mix of nutrients to ease you into the day.
4) Work on increasing quality sleep
The amount, and quality of sleep you get affects your appetite, metabolism, and you when you reach the sweet spot of REM, you even burn calories as you sleep. The hormones that are produced while you slumber have a direct impact on your weight so if you don’t get enough shut-eye, you will be more susceptible to weight gain. Read more in our article here ‘How Lack of Sleep is Making You Gain Weight‘.
5) Manage your stress levels
Stress has a direct impact on weight gain. I understand that you can’t always control the stressful situations that are taking place around you but if you can learn to control your response to stress you will avoid the weight-gaining effect that cortisol (the stress hormone) has on your body. Read more in our article here ‘How To Remain Healthy In Times Of Stress‘.
6) Drink water regularly
While everyone is different, you should aim for an intake of between two and three litres of water a day. Often the symptoms of dehydration are masked as hunger so if you’ve got a growling stomach you might just be thirsty. Make a conscious effort to drink water regularly to ensure you’re not taking in calories unnecessarily.
7) Be kind to yourself when you go off the rails
By all means, have a celebratory champagne during a special occasion, eat the cake at a birthday party or enjoy the dinner out with your loved ones. Don’t feel guilty for giving yourself a sweet treat and don’t beat yourself up if you go off the rails occasionally. Just get back to your healthy habits at the very next opportunity. A bad meal doesn’t have to mean a bad day, and a bad day certainly doesn’t mean a bad week. If you eat five meals a day, don’t write them all off just because of a bad one, pick up exactly where you left off!
8) Don’t call it a diet – call it a way of life
The most harmful impact on weight-loss results is in the language you use. Having a short-term goal of ‘being on a diet’ will always lead to weight gain once that diet is over. Changes to your weight, health and fitness should last forever, and now you need to find ways to make those changes that lead to your weight loss in the first place, permanent. Learn more about this in our article ‘Why dieting NEVER works and leads to weight gain and health problems‘.
9) Forget about the numbers on the scales
If you feel the need to weigh yourself every occasionally, go for it. But don’t solely focus on those numbers. Don’t count calories, count nutrients instead and make sure you’re getting plenty of protein, fibre and good fats every day. As part of an active, balanced lifestyle your body will tell you when it needs to eat. If you make the right choices, there will no longer be any need to worry about your weight and the numbers on the scales.
10) Surround yourself with people who support your new lifestyle
Perhaps the most challenging, but most rewarding part of your new life is to surround yourself with people who support it. Make friendships with people you can go to the gym and exercise with, and reduce the time you spend with those who only want to go to the pub and aren’t supportive of the changes you’ve made.
You’ve done so well to get to this point and have made some changes which are pivotal in you becoming a happier, healthier version of yourself. And now you must continue! If you lose focus during this maintenance phase, it’s common to put the weight back on and end up back to where you started. Keep going; you owe it to yourself to live a life that’s fit, healthy, happy and active!
If you’re struggling with weight loss or making long-term, sustainable changes to your health, check out the links below: