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19 Ways To Really, Finally Keep The Weight Off For Good

8/29 13:57:59

You hit your weight loss goals! Woot!  

So now what? Apart from giving yourself massive kudos, you've got to figure out how to stay at a healthy weight without getting stuck in diet mode, which can be unsustainable and frustrating.

Follow these simple steps—courtesy of experts and the latest studies—and you'll maintain your happy weight without the stress.

The article 19 Ways To Really, Finally Keep The Weight Off For Good originally ran on WomensHealthMag.com.

1. Don't go back to old habits.
Don't Go Back to Old Habits 2/20 1. Don't go back to old habits.

If you want to keep the weight off, you've got to keep up your healthy living habits. Whether you reduced your intake of sweets and alcohol, started a regular exercise program, or began drinking water with meals, it's important to maintain that lifestyle, says Georgie Fear, RD, author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss.

2. ...But give yourself some variety.
Give Yourself Some Variety 3/20 2. ...But give yourself some variety.

Sticking with your new habits doesn't mean you have to eat the same things every day or keep up HIIT classes 6 days a week, says Fear. Mixing things up is critical to fighting boredom. So go ahead, eat some pasta, take a yoga class, and enjoy yourself.

3. Lift weights.
Lift Weights 4/20 3. Lift weights.

When researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health followed 10,500 healthy adults for 12 years (granted, they were all men), those who spent 20 minutes a day lifting weights gained less belly fat than those who did 20 minutes of cardio daily. That's because resistance training burns calories and builds muscle. And that extra lean muscle keeps your metabolism in peak shape.

4. Keep tabs on yourself.
Keep Tabs on Yourself 5/20 4. Keep tabs on yourself.

Fear says that when her clients reach their goals, she asks them to come up with a list of four warning signs that they're headed down the wrong path. These include behaviors like eating after everyone else goes to bed, physical signs like feeling tired, and emotions and thoughts like feeling entitled to overeat after a hard day, says Fear. These are scale-free signals that you need to recalibrate. Have a plan in place for when you see one of your warning signs, she says.

5. Get excited about breakfast.
Get Excited About Breakfast 6/20 5. Get excited about breakfast.

We know, we know. It's the same ol' breakfast tip again. But it's worth repeating since 78% of people in the National Weight Control Registry, a large-scale study of adults who lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a year or more, eat breakfast every day. And 90% of the people in Cornell University's Global Healthy Weight Registry, which follows people who have always been at a healthy weight, eat breakfast 365 days a year. That being said, if you hate breakfast or it makes you feel sick, research has also shown that you're not doomed to gain weight.

6. Treat yourself when you want.
Treat Yourself When You Want 7/20 6. Treat yourself when you want.

Deprivation diets don't work—ever, says Toronto-based dietitian Abby Langer, RD. You need to eat the sugary, fatty, carby foods you crave every now and then to save your willpower for the long haul and keep your sanity. The best way to eat the foods you know aren't great for weight loss is to chow down mindfully.

7. Move every day.
Move Every Day 8/20 7. Move every day.

"People who lose weight and keep it off tend to expend about 2,000 calories a week in physical activity," says Fear. That amounts to roughly 4 hours of running per week. However, when and how you divvy up those sweat sessions is your choice. Every workout doesn't have to be a balls-to-the-wall sweat sesh. Just try to get moving in one way or another every day (you can also use these tricks to amp up the calorie burn during the workouts you love).

8. Don't beat yourself up.
Don't Beat Yourself Up 9/20 8. Don't beat yourself up.

One day of unhealthy eating does not equal weight gain, says Langer. So don't dwell on that Chinese takeout or try to compensate by depriving yourself. Plus, food guilt can actually make you gain weight—so don't sweat it. Instead, stay focused on doing what feels good today and your body will be happy, she says.

9. Be a mindful snacker.
Be a Mindful Snacker 10/20 9. Be a mindful snacker.

While regular meals and mini-meals can keep your blood sugar levels steady and fend off "hanger" attacks, there's a big difference between snacking and mindlessly eating, says Langer. Picking from your kid's food or munching while you're standing around the kitchen can become habits that lead to weight gain, she says.

10. Start being nice to yourself.
Start Being Nice to Yourself 11/20 10. Start being nice to yourself.

After hitting their goal weight, many women start fretting over a whole new set of body-image problems. That line of thinking can lead to weight gain. Instead of bullying your body, admire yourself. "Compliment yourself every day for feeling healthy and looking good," says Brian Quebbemann, MD, president of The N.E.W. Program, a California-based bariatric and metabolic weight loss center. It'll help you keep a healthy relationship with your body. And by focusing on how being healthy feels awesome, you'll be less likely to fall into old bad-for-you habits.

11. Fill up on nutrient-dense foods.
Nutrient-Dense Foods 12/20 11. Fill up on nutrient-dense foods.

Instead of counting calories, focus on the nutrients in food, says Alexandra Caspero, RD, owner of Delish Knowledge. Fruits, veggies, lean meats, and unrefined carbohydrates are low in calories and high in the vitamins and macronutrients you need to stay at a healthy weight. After all, 200 calories of cookies and 200 calories of oranges are both 200 calories—but one's the clear nutrient winner.

12. Get an accountability partner.
Get an Accountability Partner 13/20 12. Get an accountability partner.

Finding a friend who you can talk to about your weight-maintenance journey is vital to your long-term success, according to a 2014 study from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. If you don't feel comfortable enlisting a friend or family member to keep you accountable, consider joining a healthy-living Facebook group and posting regularly. You can also start a private Instagram account and invite others to cheer you on.

13. Don't reward yourself with food.
Don't Reward Yourself with Food 14/20 13. Don't reward yourself with food.

Let's get one thing straight: You shouldn't cut yourself off from dessert, says Fear. Saving sweets for a post–weight loss reward can lead to bingeing. Treat yourself to new clothes, a massage, or a mani-pedi when you reach that milestone, she says. Whatever you choose, make sure it's centered on continuing to nourish your body and spirit.

14. Choose workouts you love.
Choose Workouts You Love 15/20 14. Choose workouts you love.

Instead of worrying about calorie expenditure, focus on finding an exercise that you love doing, says Caspero. Research shows that those who enjoy exercise are more likely to do it—even compared with those who make time for it, spend money on a trainer, or have a specific goal in mind. Exercise can feel like punishment if you view it as a chore, she says. So try to remember that fitness is about so much more than what you look like.

15. Prioritize your mental health.
Prioritize Your Mental Health 16/20 15. Prioritize your mental health.

If you want a healthy body for life, you've got to get your mind right, too. In fact, research in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people struggling with depression are less likely to maintain their weight loss. It might sound obvious, but it's worth sitting down with a mental health professional if you're struggling.

16. Turn off the TV.
Turn Off the TV 17/20 16. Turn off the TV.

According to the National Weight Control Registry, about two-thirds of people who lose weight and keep it off watch less than 10 hours of TV per week. Maybe it's time to limit your time with Frank Underwood to a twice a week rather than 10 times in 24 hours. Just sayin'.

17. Hit your 5-a-day.
Hit Your Five-a-Day 18/20 17. Hit your 5-a-day.

Apart from boasting tons of health-boosting vitamins, fruits and veggies are naturally low in calories and high in fiber, so they keep you on track (see tip 11). According to Cornell research, two-thirds of healthy-weight men and women have veggies on their dinnertime menu each night, half include produce in their breakfasts, and 44% say fruit is their go-to snack.

18. Cook at home.
Cook at Home 19/20 18. Cook at home.

While you definitely shouldn't totally forgo your favorite restaurant, DIY-ing dinner is a super-simple way to make sure your meal is as nourishing as possible. Plus, people who never have trouble with weight gain tend to cook at home, according to Cornell University's Global Healthy Weight Registry.

19. Eat more protein.
Eat More Protein 20/20 19. Eat more protein.

Protein helps you feel sated, keeps your blood sugar stable, and creates more metabolism-boosting muscle. And gaining muscle is especially important for women who lost lean mass while dropping pounds. Protein (along with strength training, of course) will help you get it back.

A 2015 review published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism suggests that people need to get about 25% of their daily calories from protein to maintain a healthy weight. Translation: Aim for 30 g of protein at each meal, says Fear. It sounds like a lot, but you can find that amount in half of a chicken breast or in a cup of Greek yogurt with almonds.

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