By Tanise Edwards, M.D.
When you make an effort to slim down — and reach your goal — it can be very satisfying. You did it! You feel great — and you're at a healthy weight.
But, here's the question: How do you sustain your success?
Certainly, you have reason to be proud. But, remember this: A healthful weight is not a single destination. You've taken a significant first step on a lifelong journey toward better health. So, read on for a road map to true staying power.
First, think balance
Maintaining your weight over time comes down to this: The calories you eat must consistently equal the calories your body uses.
If you go back to your old habits, you'll likely see those pounds start to creep back on. In studies of people who kept off the weight they'd lost, most continued to keep their portions and calories in check. And, they did something else, too. They used exercise as a go-to maintenance tool.
Are you ready to enjoy that same lasting success? Rely on these eight stay-slim habits:
1. Have a long-haul mindset. Think about what made you successful at losing weight. For example, maybe you stayed busy when you had the urge to overeat. Or, you set goals that kept you energized. Make your successful coping skills your lifelong habits.
2. Don't stop working out. Keep walking, swimming, jogging, dancing — whatever it is that gets you moving. For general good health, most people need at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity a week. But, to maintain a weight loss, evidence shows that some people may need twice as much — five hours or more. For safety's sake, talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.
And, in addition to aerobic activity, add strength-building exercises on at least two days a week. You'll maintain, or even build, muscle. That helps you stay fit — and more muscle burns more calories.
3. Go for extra credit. Try to sneak calorie-burning activities into your day whenever possible. Slip on your sneakers to run an errand. Give your vacuum a good workout. Or, play a lively game of tag with your kids.
4. Plan meals and snacks. This helps guarantee that you'll always have healthful options. And, be sure to put plenty of fruits and veggies on the menu. They're low in calories and fat, but rich in nutrients — and they're high in fiber, which can help you feel full, too. To avoid impulse buys at the grocery store, have a list in hand — and don't shop when you're hungry.
5. Join the breakfast club. People who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat later in the day.
6. Eat slowly. This gives your stomach time to let your brain know it's satisfied.
7. Keep an eye on the scale. You don't have to watch it like a hawk. It's normal for weight to vary a bit. But, steady upticks can be a clue that you need to move more and eat better.
8. Be cheered. Gravitate toward friends and loved ones who support your healthy lifestyle. Maybe you'll find an exercise partner — or just get a "Good for you!" when you really need it.