As you loosen your belt and renew your vows to cut back on second helpings, dispense with desserts, forego chocolate and hot chips and sign up at the gym, keep in mind that it’s better to be a full-time healthy eater, than a part-time ‘loser.’ Indeed, the biggest loser in the fastest time is possibly destined for the biggest weight regain.
From high protein to low-fat, from eating right for your type to eating like a caveman, any calorie deficit (burning more calories than you eat) diet can help you lose weight. But the real name of the game is maintaining that weight loss for your long-term health and wellbeing including reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes. It’s not a competition to be the biggest loser in the shortest time. It’s the challenge of converting your old eating and lifestyle patterns into new and healthy ones you can happily live with for a lifetime.
Don’t be tempted to measure success by the number of dress sizes dropped or belt notches tightened in just 3 months. It’s a real achievement to lose 5% of your initial weight in whatever time it takes. And the real success is preventing weight regain by sticking to your healthier lifestyle.
If you do want to lose a bit more weight, take the pressure off for 3 months before you restrict calories again. This will give your body time to adjust to its new engine size. And it will give you practice in learning to listen to your body’s natural signals for feeling hungry and feeling full just as babies and toddlers do. An alternating weight loss/weight maintenance pattern like this will help you become a successful full-time weight maintainer.
Of course, in theory preventing weight regain should be a lot easier than losing weight. But if anything, it is the most critical stage of all. Here’s why regaining weight after you have been on a diet is all too easy. For starters your body fights back. Food-seeking behaviour is wired into our brains to make sure we survive when our energy intake is low. So, despite your good intentions, those hormones fly into action to stimulate your appetite and encourage excessive food intake. But your body is a smaller engine at your new weight and it needs less fuel to run. And if you lost weight rapidly and without exercising, then chances are you also lost excessive amounts of muscle, making your engine size even smaller.
Another reason why it can be so hard to maintain weight loss is that your resting metabolic rate (RMR) has dropped so your energy expenditure declines by as much as 10%. This is how nature helps animals adapt to the environment in which they live. If food is scarce, the body reduces engine revs so it can get by with less fuel.
To lose weight and keep it off, the bottom line is that you need to remain focused on eating well and exercising regularly. The 10 golden rules of preventing weight regain are:
- Never skip meals (or you will slow your metabolic rate).
- Eat a good breakfast.
- Eat at least three times a day (but listen to your appetite and eat accordingly.
- Limit television to less than 12 hours per week.
- Choose low GI carbs at every meal.
- Eat lean protein sources at every meal.
- Don’t skimp on the fats – just choose healthy ones.
- Eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day.
- Schedule (put it in your diary if you have to) moderate physical activity for 30–60 minutes on six days out of seven.
- On the seventh day, relax and enjoy.
– Source: The Low GI Diet Revolution (Marlowe & Company); published as The Low GI Diet in ANZ (Hachette Livre ) and the UK (Hodder Mobius)