Despite this, when you make the transition from losing weight to maintaining weight, you have a little more wiggle room in your diet and workout plan because you don't need to create a deficit of calories anymore—you just need to take in as many as your body needs in order to not gain or lose. (For more on how many calories you need, be sure to update your weight and goals regularly on SparkPeople.)
So whether you're just starting out on your weight-loss journey or if you've reached your goal weight, follow these top strategies to keep the weight off for good.
Get Moving and Stay Moving
Being active is extremely important for keeping weight off—not to mention it has a slew of other great health benefits, including helping cholesterol ratios, reducing blood pressure, improving mood and well-being, and strengthening the heart. Be sure to get active doing something you love; whether it's dancing, walking, biking, or playing sports—life is too short to do something you don't like! Shoot for at least three days of cardiovascular exercise a week and two days of resistance training. Sessions should be at least 20 to 30 minutes each (which can even be broken up into smaller segments) with your heart rate up to 60 percent to 85 percent of its max.
Multiple studies show that people who track or journal the foods they eat lose more weight and keep it off for the long haul. In fact, the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks more than 3,000 people who have lost an average of 50 pounds and kept it off successfully for five years, has found that logging foods is one way to stay on track well after they've lost the weight. In another study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, those who used a food diary while dieting lost twice as much weight as those who didn't.
Eat the Foods You Love
If you love cheesecake and chocolate but have a food plan that restricts you from eating them, chances are you're going to feel pretty darned deprived. And that's never a good thing (and typically backfires). To have a truly livable healthy lifestyle, you should include small treats (always eaten in moderation) in your diet. You can scour Pinterest for revamped and better-for-you versions of your not-so-healthy favorites!
Drink Enough H20
Ask any successful weight-loss maintainer and I guarantee they do one thing—drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Water helps support your metabolism, aids in removing fat from the body, can help cut cravings and is just darn good for you. So drink up!
Whether it's a friend, family member or buddies on SparkPeople, having a support system is key. Another study that looked again at the National Weight Control Registry found that those who lost weight and continued going to bi-monthly support group meetings for a year maintained their weight. Those who didn't go to support meetings regained almost half of the weight they lost. Support doesn't have to come from a face-to-face interaction, so if you can't make it to a meeting there is hope for you too. Another study shows that online socialization and weight-loss support works, too!
Keep Challenging Yourself
Even if you're already at your goal weight, never stop setting smart goals. Whether it's adding more weight to your strength training routine, walking or running a bit faster, fitting more fruits and veggies in your diet or simply saying "no" when Aunt Myrtle tries to guilt you into having that second piece of pie, keep setting weekly, monthly and yearly goals to keep you focused and challenged. And be sure to reward yourself (go see a movie, get a pedicure, enjoy a massage, buy new workout clothes, etc.) with good stuff when you reach your goals! Rewards can sometimes be the best motivator of all.
Switch Things Up
Make a point every month to try something new. Whether it's a new exercise class, a change in your workout, a different recipe or a food you've never tried, changing things up regularly will keep things fun and engaging. After all, no one (not even those fitness nuts who love to work out) likes to eat the same meal or do the same workout day after day.
I encourage many of my personal training clients to place a photo of themselves at their heaviest or unhealthiest somewhere that they can see it. You don't have to look at it every day, but once a week it's good to remember where you were and how far you've come. Keeping a photo of your past self in your wallet also comes in handy when you're tempted to skip a scheduled workout or tempted to make an unhealthy option while dining out.
Track Your Weight
About three-quarters of all successful long-term weight-loss maintainers from the National Weight Control Registry report that they weigh themselves weekly to keep the extra pounds at bay. While sometimes the scale can be a beast of burden (especially when you're gaining muscle and losing fat), it's important that you continue to monitor and track your body to see if the weight is coming off and staying off. Whether it's the scale, measuring body fat, making sure you can fit in a certain pair of jeans or using a measuring tape, track your size regularly.
Embrace the Lifestyle
After a few weeks of eating right and working out, you shouldn't just look better. You should feel better, too! Losing weight is about improving your life, not restricting it. So be sure that you're focusing on the positive and embracing your healthy choices each day. After all, it is a choice—and you've chosen to be healthy and happy!