I remember the first time I had to consciously diet and exercise to lose weight. It was really tough for me. All my life I never worried about my weight. I was a natural athlete with a varsity letter in multiple sports. I could run a seven-minute mile in the off season. I ate whatever I wanted. I was in great shape and all without batting an eye.
But anyone who’s grown up knows that that kind of fortune only lasts but for so long. I got too busy for sports and started exercising less and less. I got too busy to cook, so I started eating more and more junk. Before I knew it I gained 30 pounds and I had no idea where it came from. Time for a diet.
I decided to just run every morning and limit my sugar and carbohydrate intake. Two months later, I was down 20 pounds. Great! Works for me. Now I can relax. I stopped running, went back to eating the way I was before. Guess what? I gained another 30 pounds. Now remember, I had only lost 20 of the other 30 pounds so now I’m at a net gain of 40 pounds. Woy!
I worked out again and watched my eating. Down 20 pounds. Stopped working out, back up 10 pounds. And so the cycle continued until I was a whopping 60 pounds heavier than I wanted to be. Obviously what I was doing was not really working. Something had to be done.
Losing weight was not my problem. Keeping the weight off was my problem. I was a yo-yo dieter. I needed to figure out how to keep my weight down. I wanted the freedom of not being on a diet, but I needed to figure out how to maintain a healthy weight. I enlisted the help of nutritionists, physical fitness trainers and my good old buddy Google. I found many tips on what to do after a diet. Some of them worked and most of them didn’t. I’m finally at a point in my life where I’ve kept my weight down for years and each year I’m lighter than I was the previous year.
I’m sure there are some of you out there who have been or are currently in similar situations and are trying to figure out how to make your weight loss stick. So here’s a list of helpful hints to keep you from being a yo-yo dieter.
GET A SCALE
This, to me, is by far the most important thing you can do. The reason I was able to gain so much weight without realizing it is because I had no idea it was happening. Most people with gain a few pounds a week and not every week. A few pounds is not noticeable. But after several weeks it all adds up. I never realized how much I gained until I saw myself in pictures.
With a scale, you know exactly what’s happening with your weight at all times. You can get a scale for as little as $10, sometimes less. Weigh yourself once a week, on the same day, at the same time. In the morning on an empty stomach is the best time to weigh yourself because it’s a time when you’re weight will be the truest. A lot of people with scales weigh themselves daily, but don’t do it. Your weight fluctuates so much daily that you’ll only freak yourself out. Once a week is all you need.
KNOW YOUR MAX WEIGHT
Armed with your scale, you’ll be able to monitor your weight closely. You want to set a maximum weight that you never want to exceed. Everyone’s weight fluctuates up and down so you’ll never be the same weight every week. But there may come a few weeks in a row when you are constantly gaining weight. It could be because something is going on at work that’s forcing you to eat lots of junk, or that you’re not sleeping or that you’ve discovered the best restaurant that you’ve been eating at everyday for the past month. No matter the cause, once you hit or even get close to your max weight, you know that you need to make a change in your diet or your exercise.
For example, if your target weight is 160 pounds, a good max weight could be 170 pounds. Some weeks you’ll be 158, other weeks you’ll be 163. But the week you hit 168, you need to make a change so that you don’t hit 170, but start heading back towards 160. This works very well because instead of trying to lose 20 pounds, you’re only trying to lose 5 pounds, which is relatively easy.
WATCH WHAT YOU EAT
When I say watch I mean pay attention. It’s okay to eat a Big Mac. It’s okay to have some griot. But if you get close to your max weight, you’ll know what got you there and what you’ll need to cut out this week to get back down to your target weight. But to avoid getting close to your max weight you’ve got to eat right. If you’re going for the griot, have a salad or some other vegetables before. Eat more fruits. Drink more water. You don’t have to be on a diet to eat right. And eating right doesn’t mean you can’t have a steak.
Yo-yo dieting is terrible for your body in many ways physically as well as mentally. You want to avoid yo-yo dieting as much as you possibly can. The first thing you want to learn to do is maintain your weight, and these tips are a great start. We’ll talk later about other things you can do to get your weight down. But let’s start with this first baby step.
Until next time, cheers to a better you.