By Chef K.T. Murphy
For those who have struggled for years like I, with an ever-increasing waistline and a deteriorating state of health, the decision to shed the excess pounds and regain control over your life can be a daunting one. Cutting refined carbs, going to the gym, and saying ‘no’ to birthday cake, can be tougher than you ever imagined, especially if it’s your first time doing so. The cruel irony of it all is, even after you finally lose all the weight, it’s even tougher to keep it off.
So, what can you do to make sure it wasn’t just a waste of time and energy? Here are some essential tips to help you stay on-track and keep your hard-earned physique for years to come.
Assuming it’ll be easy to keep the pounds off is probably the single worst mistake you can make.
Now, that isn’t to say that it won’t get easier as time goes on, but unless you prepare yourself for the potential pitfalls ahead, you’re likely to see all your hard work dwindle away as your weight returns.
This doesn’t mean that you need to go buy yourself a backpack and head down to your local university for a diet and nutrition class (although, that isn’t such a bad idea either…). Instead, start looking beyond the diet that brought your waistline down.
Here’s a short list of topics worth getting a deeper understanding in:
- Vitamins and Minerals
- The Microbiome of the Body
- Muscle Metabolism
- The Effects of Insulin
- Fat Metabolism
- How Exercise Effects the Brain
While understanding these aren’t essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, they are powerful tools that can help provide context to the often confusing world of health and wellness.
Having a weight loss goal for an event such as a vacation or class reunion, can be a great way to produce results. After all, few things are as motivating as the thought of your coworkers seeing you in a bikini.
As useful as deadlines like this can be, there’s also a less talked about problem with this type of tactic — what do you do after the vacation?
If your goal is to keep the weight off permanently, you need to get rid of this ‘Summer Bod’ mindset as soon as possible. By associating your weight loss with a one-time event like taking pictures for the company website, you run the risk of losing motivation when it’s over and done with.
Instead, try giving yourself small, but measurable goals for the future. Make sure that they’re specific, and time sensitive — when goals are too vague, it’s much easier to slip up. If the goals are too big, determining success can be an issue.
Climbing Mt. Everest is an outstanding goal, but it’s obviously not something you can just waltz into simply because you’re feeling confident.
Here’s a few examples of simple, yet effective goals:
- Run a mile in under 10 minutes by June 1st
- Do 50 push-ups, non-stop, by August 10th
- Go to sleep by 9pm, every day for 1 week
When you reach your goals, don’t stop there — make new ones with a slightly increased set of difficulty.
Chances are pretty good that you learned to cook at least a few new and healthy meals during your weight loss journey. If so, consider it a great start to something that’s vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If not, it’s time to brush up on your cooking skills.
For many, it can be a pain to find new recipes that’ll be both healthy and delicious at the same time. So, they find themselves cooking the same 5 meals each week, which can only be described as a losing battle.
Sure, it may work for a few months, or maybe even a few years, but eventually you’ll lose your taste for it, and it’ll be easier than ever to reach for the junk food.
To prevent this from happening, commit yourself to cooking at least 1 new meal each week, using different main ingredients each time.
Chicken may have been your go-to throughout your weight loss journey, but unless you can palate chicken every day for the rest of your life, you might want to start experimenting.
Don’t get ahead of yourself — start simple, but don’t be afraid to take chances with quality ingredients. Finding a diverse amount of delicious meals can be the psychological boost you need to keep you moving forward.
This one may seem obvious, but it’s something that gets overlooked far too often.
A 2005 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that one of the biggest contributing factors in maintaining weight loss was high levels of physical activity. The important thing to note here is, high levels of physical activity.
Does this mean that you need to become a high-performance athlete pushing their physical limits day in and day out? Not at all. But when it comes to exercise, the body adapts very quickly, which requires you to constantly push yourself harder and harder.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys going for walks, push yourself to go slightly farther each time. Consider taking aerobic exercise classes such as cycling or dancing — anything that gets the heart rate up and pushes you to be better.
The goal isn’t to become an Olympian overnight —the important thing is that you need to feel challenged. If it seems like it’s getting easy, it’s probably because it is.
When you experience success, it’s one of the most empowering things a human can go through. After overcoming a difficult obstacle, it seems natural to try and use the same methodology elsewhere in your life.
The military is an obvious example of how discipline in many different areas can almost rewire you to be successful. Through persistence and daily routines, even averages member can be elevated to a plateau of success that can’t help but permeate into every aspect of their life.
Now, we’re not saying you should go out and join the Marines if you want to keep your weight off — that’d be overkill. Instead, try taking a lesson from the military and start adding discipline to your daily life.
Here’s a short list of ways to begin doing so:
- Wake up at a set time every day, regardless of what you need to accomplish
- Plan ahead — outline the next day’s activities the night before
- Instead of watching TV, read a book
- Keep your living space clean and orderly
- Wash your dishes as soon as you’re done eating
None of these are difficult to do, yet most people find themselves unwilling to try them.
By becoming even just slightly more disciplined, you make it easier to eat well and stick to your exercise regimens. You’ll find it easier to resist temptations, and harder to slip back into old habits.
It’s amazing to think how just 100 years ago, this wasn’t nearly the problem that it is today.
In our modern world, it has become easier than ever to stay up late watching TV, movies, or even reading. Not surprisingly, this has been shown in several studies to have an impact on our overall health, and specifically our weight.
In a 2004 study, PLOS Medicine found that a longer sleep duration directly affected the hormones of hunger and fullness, ghrelin and leptin. In those who had less than adequate sleep, they showed a significant rise in ghrelin (the hunger hormone) in comparison to leptin (the ‘fullness’ hormone).
Does this mean that you can simply lose weight and keep it off by getting enough sleep at night? Probably not.
Still, it shows that you’re not doing yourself any favors by staying up all night binge watching TV shows. By doing this, you’re increasing the likeliness of being hungry the next day, which can only make your life more difficult.
It’s a strange fact of life that most of us are unable to do things we enjoy as often as we’d like. The unfortunate reality of this is, we tend to be stressed as a result.
Human beings have evolved to respond to stressful situations in a very particular way.
The adrenal glands release cortisol (the stress hormone), and cortisol stimulates the production of glucose (a simple sugar used for energy). Glucose is essential to help our various organs and tissues survive a stressful event, such as a life-and-death situation.
The problem is that our bodies haven’t quite gotten the message that times have changed for most of us, and it responds to psychological stress the same as physiological stress — the release of cortisol.
Since cortisol raises your blood sugar levels, the body’s natural response is to produce insulin, which takes the excess sugar and stores it into fat cells.
To put it simply, the more stressed you are, the more likely you are to gain weight.
Luckily for you, there are several ways to help reduce stress levels, thereby lowering cortisol in the bloodstream. Here a few examples:
- Read a book
- Listen to music
- Take a walk
Basically, you need to find time to do the things you enjoy. While it may seem as though you’re shirking some responsibility to do so, it’s important to realize that destressing your life is vital for your health, and to maintain your weight loss.
All the Best
Do yourself a favor and relax!