In 2001 when I went to Weight Watchers and lost 80 lbs I did a lot of things WRONG and I am still paying the price. But there were some things I did right and they actually teach some helpful tips in their meetings. The following habits are helpful and can help anyone achieve long term weight loss maintenance:
At Weight Watchers they teach you about points and some teachers emphasize how to use them most effectively. If someone uses all their points for sweets it is highly likely they will starve through the rest of the day. I quickly realized that if I was going to be successful at losing weight I would need to avoid sugar. I also noticed that sugar is a drug like substance for me and that if I have something in my house with sugar I will not rest until it is in my belly. After about 8 years I realized that bread turns into sugar too and has similar effects on my appetite so I learned to avoid that too. Another early mistake I made was eating fake sugars like aspartame or Splenda but those seemed to still make me hungry in the same way as table sugar. Fruit has also been a problem because it can be really sweet too. Check in with yourself about your triggers and if a food is too tempting for you to have in the house, don’t buy it. Watch a great video about the dangers of artificial sweeteners: Sweet Misery
Keeping a food journal:
I do not think this is something you have to do forever, but it is good to check in with yourself for increased awareness. Food journaling is especially helpful if you are working with a trainer, nutritionist (like me) or functional medicine doctor so that they can help you find ways to get better results. Even now when I feel like things are getting a little out of control with my food I pull out my notepad and start writing things down.
Eating protein with every meal:
Animal protein detoxifies the body and improves lean muscle mass. I followed a very low fat diet when I started on this journey but I centered most meals around eggs, chicken, fish, and beef. Unfortunately I did eat a lot of soy burgers read why that is a fail here. I wish I had had the sense to avoid cereal and healthy whole grains but hindsight is 20/20. Now I feel so much better by starting my day with eggs or meaty dinner leftovers to stabilize my blood sugar and energy.
When I started losing weight believe it or not I only walked around a flat residential neighborhood for 30 minutes almost everyday. It was difficult at first because I went alone with my Walkman but I just kept going. I was consistent even though my thighs rubbed together in the hot summer sun and I felt gross. I lost about 60 lbs in the first 3 or 4 months just by walking which was pretty amazing.
Cooking at home:
I prepared almost all my meals at home during that period to avoid added fat and calories, but maybe that helped me avoid lots of vegetable oils and fake food in the process. I really think preparing food at home helped me to get in touch with my body and learn more about cooking.
Eating lots of colorful vegetables:
Colorful vegetables have anti-oxidant properties that help our livers detox to burn fat in this chemical filled world. When you are transitioning into a healthy eating plan sometimes it is hard to figure out portions. Adding lots of veggies was comforting because it made me feel like I had a big plate of food. Of course now I add lots of grass fed butter and coconut oil to my veggies but I still eat lots of colorful veggies to add volume to meals.
In Weight Watchers they teach you to map out your day or “storyboard” day so you can have success. I think this is a very valuable habit. I remember a teacher I had that said “you either fail to plan or plan to fail.” I see this in my clients all the time. They get to a party or a restaurant then realize there is nothing they can eat. By then they are starving and they just grab the first thing they can find. Irregardless if the food it is fried in canola oil and breaded with flour or dipped in soy Teriyaki sugar sauce. Then they wonder why they are not losing weight. Try to think ahead of the challenges you have coming up and either bring food or eat at home beforehand. Also you can read the menu online to prepare mentally about what you will order. Do you think Michel Phelps just wings it on the day of the race or he has careful preparation for many weeks prior? I think you know the answer!
Going to bed on time:
When I started losing weight I was 21 years old and I loved to go out paryting with my friends. I took a break from going out for several months so I could really focus on my goal of losing weight. Since I didn’t go out going to bed early was really not that hard. If you do not sleep well your body will be a chronically stressed and in a fat storing mode. Is that what you want to fight against everyday while trying to eat right? Also hunger hormones become out of whack by lack of sleep which will make it impossible to turn down those sweet treats at the office birthday party ect.
Letting go of what others think:
This is a constant struggle but one you have to overcome if you want to be healthy. Misery loves company and your fat friends will not like you changing your diet or exercising more. In contrast your skinny friends will not understand that you can’t eat the same things they do and look slim. So either way you slice the cake you are going to piss people off. Change is hard but you have to decide you are worth it. This is your life and you only get one (as far as we know) and it is up to you to decide what kind of body you want to spend it in! So make a decision to get healthy and stick with it. It does not matter what your family and friends think. This is your life! Do you want to spend it hiding at home or outside doing lots of cool stuff?
Make a goal that really matters to you:
My goal was to have get a boyfriend that I really liked (okay it was to fall in love!). I was not attracted to the men who liked me when I was fat. I did not want to be alone all my life or settle for someone who did not make me excited. I also wanted to wear smaller clothes, be pretty, and go on a hike without running out of breath but all that was secondary. So you have to find the reason that will really motivate you and focus on it. You may have to write it on your mirror and put goal photos all over your room to stay focused. You may even need to hire a coach for accountability, but unless you have a reason that stirs your soul long term weight loss may not happen for you.
A couple of years ago (2009) the wheels fell off and I started to feel super low energy and have thyroid problems. By adding more healthy fat into my diet with protein and veggies I was able to improve my health and more easily maintain my weight. I stopped doing excessive cardio, focused on smart weight training and lowering my stress. A good guide to getting started on a healthy eating plan is available here.