If you are overweight, you probably have had this experience more times than you care to count: being told by a health-care provider that if you could “just lose weight and keep it off,” your health would improve. You may have tried numerous weight-loss programs, gym memberships, and diet books in an attempt to follow that advice. Over the years you may have lost somewhere between 50 and 100 pounds. But keeping that weight off over the long term poses its own, unique challenge.
Advice to lose weight is given routinely, yet losing weight and maintaining weight loss are very difficult goals to achieve. However, there are practical tools and strategies that can help you reach your weight-loss targets and (most important) keep that weight off over time. This article presents some of those strategies that have stood the test of time.
Set realistic goals
The most important strategy for successful weight loss — or behavioral change of any sort — is to learn how to set realistic, achievable goals for yourself. Losing weight and managing diabetes both require attention to diet and exercise. But nobody can change everything at once, so it helps to set small, achievable goals that can build on each other.
Start with any goal you are ready to tackle. For example, if you see some areas in your meal plan that you are ready to “tune up,” focus on them first. On the other hand, if the weather is getting warmer and you are interested in starting a regular walking routine, go for it. Any positive lifestyle change you make that you are able to build in as a regular habit will result in improvements in your energy, mood, and motivation.
It’s also important to be realistic about the amount of weight you wish to lose. Even a 7% to 10% weight loss has been proven to have significant health benefits, but this often strikes people as too small a goal. For example, someone who weighs 300 pounds and loses 30 pounds is still overweight. However, keeping this weight off over time will result in improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids, increased mobility, and improved energy.
Setting a weight-loss goal that is too high and aiming for perfection are a recipe for burnout and make it more likely that you will give up on the overall goal of improving your health. Diabetes is a chronic disease that will be with you for your whole life, so your goals and expectations need to be maintainable and sustainable over a lifetime.
Keep track of your progress
Keeping track of your progress daily can be a powerful tool. Research shows that people who routinely monitor their progress are more likely to maintain weight loss and stick to an exercise program. Monitoring your progress could mean maintaining a logbook to regularly record meals, exercise, and weight, or it could mean designing your own personalized system. Keeping track of your weight-loss pattern will also help you decide when it is time to set a new goal. When you notice weight-loss plateaus, or a slowdown in your rate of weight loss, it is time to set a new small goal, such as increasing the duration or intensity of your exercise or making another change in your meal plan that will contribute to your progress.
Using a tracking system also helps you to increase your awareness of risky situations or foods that trigger overeating. For example, if you learn from your logbook that whenever you take home a doggie bag from a restaurant you polish it off the same night, it probably makes sense to rethink your doggie bag strategy. Keeping temptations out of your home and workplace will help you to create an environment that promotes your success.