Encouraging Health and Happiness

Losing weight — and not finding it again

Tips for losing weight, and keeping it off, from columnist Carrie Dennett.


Special to The Seattle Times


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For many of us, losing weight isn’t too hard. People do it all the time … sometimes several times. But preventing those pounds from returning? That’s where the real challenge kicks in.

If you’ve recently lost weight — or are planning to lose weight — and want to keep the pounds you lose from returning (and who doesn’t?), here are some tips to consider:

Be sustainable. The changes you make should be about building healthful, lifelong, enjoyable eating and exercise habits. They shouldn’t be only about seeing the number on the scale drop. If you adopt a strict diet and an all-consuming exercise plan, eventually you’ll have to give it up to spare your sanity. Then you’ll end up regaining the pounds you lost — and possibly more.

Think long-term. Instead of imagining how great it would feel to fit into smaller-size clothes the moment you reach your goal, focus on how great it would feel to enjoy the benefits of a healthy body weight for years and decades to come.

Don’t expect miracles. You might like your reflection in a mirror more when you are at a lower weight. You probably will have more energy and find it easier to be active. You might even dodge a few health scares. But you will not be a new person. You are not your body weight.

Choose the right role models. Don’t envy the people who lose 50 pounds in the blink of an eye. Instead, admire the people who have formed nutrition and exercise habits that allowed them to lose weight gradually — and keep it off for at least a few years.

Don’t outeat your exercise. Exercise is important for health and for helping to prevent weight gain, but it doesn’t burn as many calories as you think. You easily can undo the calorie burn with mindless snacking.

Be realistic. If you have to struggle to stay at your ideal weight but find it easy to stay at a weight five pounds higher, how ideal is your ideal?

Accept that weight maintenance is a struggle. How much of a struggle depends on several factors: How long have you been overweight? How much weight did you lose? Are you an emotional eater? What genes do you have? How supportive are your friends and family? What obstacles get in the way of exercising and eating nutritiously?

Holidays can be hard. Crazy weeks at work can be hard. There will be times when you are perfectly happy exercising and eating healthfully, and there will be times when you wish you could just eat anything you want and lounge on the couch.

Some aspects of living a healthier lifestyle get easier, even automatic, with time. Other parts might always feel hard. It can be helpful to dig deep and really think about why it’s important to you to live at a healthy body weight. You might have to revisit this occasionally — what motivates us once might not do the trick months or years down the road.


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