Is gaining weight back after losing it inevitable? According to some experts, the answer may be yes. A study from Colorado State University Extension proposed that an estimated 50 million Americans go on a diet each year and only 5 percent manage to keep the weight off.
Researchers studying these trends, including Dr. George L. Blackburn of the Federal Trade Commission, speculate that where weight loss programs fail is the promise for quick results and failure to communicate the importance of forming long-term healthy habits such as reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity.
Other proof that diets aren’t the answer? Research shows that Americans tend to gain between .4 and 1.8 pounds every year. While that may not sound drastic, in reality it means that a 20-year old who weighs 130 pounds might weigh 148 by the time they reach 30, and 166 pounds by age 40!
These grim figures may be tied to the fact that most people gain back two-thirds of the weight lost in their first year after a diet program and 100 percent of their weight lost in five years (according to a 1997 FTC report).
So what can we do to lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off? According to recent research we reported on earlier this week, Michaela Kiernan, PhD. and her team at Stanford University School of Medicine, focusing on weight loss instead of a lifetime of maintaining a healthy weight may be a dangerous trap.
In their 28-week study, the group found that women who spent time mastering the skills of weight maintenance regained fewer pounds after losing than those who focused solely on losing weight. The study suggests that the key to losing weight isn’t aiming to drop 5 pounds in the first week, but rather focusing on maintaining your current weight and then adding a healthy diet and increasing your physical activity.
So how can we focus on weight management especially on the brink of entering holiday season when weight gain seems inevitable? Well, once you master the ability to avoid weight gain you can add in a few tricks here and there to go a step further, break those plateaus, and finally shed those stubborn pounds. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. King, prince, peasant. Have you ever heard of this diet metaphor? It’s one that I enlist often when I’m trying to maintain weight or shed a few pounds. The basic principle is this: Eat like a king for breakfast, consuming the most amount of calories in the morning to start with a full tank. Then, eat like a prince at lunch, aiming to get full but not stuffed. And at night eat like a peasant, having the smallest meal of the day so you go to bed satisfied but not miserably full. This system allows you to fuel your body when you’re burning calories, which naturally sets you up for weight loss.
2. Bring your own lunch and snacks when you can. We all know eating out for lunch or grabbing unhealthy snacks can send our calorie count way overboard. Instead of going for convenience, consider stashing a granola bar or apple in your purse for a quick bite or throwing together a turkey sandwich or PB&J to bring for lunch. A little foresight can and preparation can go a long way in keeping off unwanted weight.
3. Cut out that late night snack when you’re already over your calories. Counting calories can be tedious, but in other ways it can be incredibly freeing. If you know that you have an extra 100 calories to spend at night, go ahead and have that cup of cereal or square of chocolate. If you’re already over though, skip the treat and take a walk instead. Your backside will thank you for it.
4. Enlist the help of some handy iPhone apps like Daily Burn, Lose It, and My Fitness Pal. These apps have worked for countless friends of mine and many of our True Weight Loss Story participants. The most common theme seems to be the accountability they provide. Even if you don’t utilize the social networking options they provide, just tracking your calories in and calories out for your own knowledge can go a long way in maintaining your weight in the long run.
5. Switch up your workout routine. If you’ve been running two miles every other day for the last year, it’s only a matter of time before you get burnt out. Switch up your routine by joining a new fitness class at your gym, running a new route, trying a new piece of equipment – whatever it takes to keep engaged and excited about exercise.
6. Trade your favorite indulgences for healthier ones. A simple example of this is my trick for switching to frozen yogurt instead of ice cream when I’m trying to whittle down a bit. This simple switch can save hundreds of calories. If you’d rather have the real thing, simply opt for a smaller serving and supplement with the addition of healthier toppings such as nuts or fruit.
7. Get seasonal workout gear. Have you ever found that your excuse for not being active is that it’s too hot or cold outside? Nonsense! If it’s too hot to workout mid-day, get out in the morning or at night. If it’s too chilly, buy some cold weather gear like running tights, thermal gloves and ear warmers. If exercise is important to you, you’ll make it fit into your schedule. If my friend in Alaska can get outside and run year-round I think we in more moderate climates can do the same.
8. Use your clothes as a measure. Are your jeans getting too snug? This is the easiest way I can think of to keep your weight in check. Cut back on portion sizes, go for an extra walk during the day – little tricks like these can help you avoid weight gain in the long run and save you money. Who wants to buy new jeans every four weeks on account of their fluctuating weight anyway?