Q & A: How do I maintain my weight loss?

We’ve recently finished our Rock Your Jeans Challenge and got this question from several of the women….How do I maintain my weight loss?

Q & A: How do I maintain my weight loss?  I’ve lost a good bit, and want to keep it off over the holidays?  Are there guidelines on a new calorie budget, etc?

A: First of all, take a moment to be proud of yourself for getting to the point where you are planning for maintenance.  It’s not easy, but you are worth it.  Second, these are good questions, and I will treat them separately.

How to keep the weight off over the holidays?
Holiday weight gain doesn’t start on Thanksgiving Day it starts with Halloween.  More specifically it starts with the first bag of candy you buy and/or the first candy bowl you see at work.  Most Americans will put on 5, 7 or 10lbs in Q4. 

What to do is very simple: balance the calories in with your calories out.  However, simple is not the same as easy.  It’s hard.  Especially since there is so much temptation, and seasonal temptation at that. Seasonal temptation such as turkey and stuffing flavored potato chips, or limited edition candy cane ice cream (I wouldn’t know anything about these items…).

The limiting factor is usually motivation, or more specifically loss aversion.  Loss aversion being our innate hatred of losing things or passing up limited opportunities, and in the context of the holidays the question is what hurts more: (a) passing up this current, limited edition opportunity for pleasure, or (b) being upset with yourself in January. It’s usually (a) unless you’ve done something extra (like #4 below) to make (b) more painful.  (This is the positive power of negativity.) 

Here are the practical to-do’s.  If there is a link, then click it:
1.     Use grocery shopping service until January if seasonal impulse buys tempt you.  If you don’t walk by temptation, then it can’t get the best of you.

2.     Don’t keep temptation in your home. (This is my newest and most innovative idea yet.)

3.     Keep an eye on the scale – if you weighed yourself once a week or once a day while losing weight, keep that up. 

a.     Your clothes will tell you if you have gained weight, but there can be a very long delay depending on what part of your closet.

b.     Losing 5 pounds isn’t easy, but it’s also not that bad.  10 is hard, 20 is more twice as hard, and so on.  The earlier you can course correct the easier the correction will be. 

c.     Write it down or put it in an app vs. relying on your memory.
4.     Set up consequences.  Humans have been successfully using consequences to manage behavior for all of recorded history, but because they’re not PC they’ve fallen out of fashion lately.  Fashion is fine for clothes, but not so much for things that really matter.  Here’s an example of a program we’ve done to establish consequences over the holidays. 

New calorie budget?
Let’s say you lost 12 pounds in 12 weeks to make my math easy.  A pound has at least 4,000 calories in it, and if you do all the math (48,000 calorie deficit in 84 days) then you will see that your average daily deficit was 571 calories. If you were eating 1,200 calories to lose the weight it is tempting to say that 1,800 calories is the new budget, however there are a few problems with this:

1.     You weigh less so all of your steps burn fewer calories.  Either your step count needs to go up by whatever percentage 12lbs is (10% if you were 120, 5% if you were 240, etc.), or you can reduce your budget by approximately 180 (12 pounds x 15 calories per pound).

2.     Weekends and holidays: people don’t eat the same amount of food each and every day. We tend to eat less during the work week and more on weekends and holidays.  When losing weight you likely had to work very hard to get holidays and weekends to be closer to the work week. 

Most people would prefer to spend their new found surplus on going out to eat, meals with family, etc.  Very, very, very few people have the calorie budget to do both.

o   So, for most people, keeping your work week meals the same, and allowing yourself more (but not unlimited) leeway on weekends and holidays is a better value for the calories you have to spend.

o   A fairly normal dinner out is 1,500 to 2,000 calories, so 1-2 of these per week consumes the whole surplus.

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