Weight Wars Part 3: Keeping Those Pounds from Coming Back

By Martin Brown

Extra pounds are not easy to lose. I know. I’ve lost a bunch of them.

The sad truth is that it’s the same 15 or 20 pounds that I’ve lost before. In fact, I’ve lost those pounds more times then I care to remember, or you would want to hear about.
The toughest part of winning your war on weight is what happens in the long haul: you know, after you have announced your “mission accomplished,” and you’ve reached your target weight. Probably the most famous example of pounds gone today and here tomorrow is Oprah Winfrey, who with the help of her fitness coach, Bob Greene, has dropped and gained, and dropped and gained again.
In Weight Wars Part 1 and Part 2, both of which you can find and read in our health channel archives here on singlemindedwomen.com, I’ve discussed what I consider to be fast, safe, and effective ways to lose weight. But let’s now tackle the really tough issue of keeping those pounds from coming back. I’m embarrassed to say but I have blue jeans in four different sizes, so they are ready for me whether I’m riding up or down the scale. This time, though, aren’t I hoping that the 15 pounds that I have shed are gone for good?

Absolutely. But I’m realistic enough to know that the long haul is never easy. When we break bad food habits and replace them with good food habits, we feel a real sense of accomplishment, but can we stay the course?
Here are five important steps to accomplishing the goal that we all share, to take it off and keep it off:
Step 1: truly change your eating habits.
I looked at a cute book recently. There were hundreds of packaged food products which the authors had analyzed, then created long lists of “eat this” and “don’t eat that.” The problem with this approach is that it’s like trading in a car that breaks down every week for one that breaks down only every other week: Anyway you look at it, this is a bad deal.

I don’t care if a Big Mac has a few less calories or grams of fat than a Whopper. The reality is that both are unhealthy choices. Dump the junk, and go for healthy instead. Keep lots of dried fruit, raisins, cranberries, and such on hand. Baby peeled carrots, bananas, apples, oranges, the list is just about endless. Bottom line: Get the junk out of the house, and get the good stuff in. You’ll not only feel better for it, you’ll have a much easier time keeping extra pounds from coming back.
Step 2: Indulge now and then, but not at home.
This is something I never did before, and it really works for me now, so I encourage you to try it as well.

In an earlier story, I reported that studies have shown that well over 70% of the calories we consume, every day, are from what we eat at home. So make this important pledge to yourself, no junk food in the house. That’s where the real trouble sets in. Having accepted that truth, I now regularly indulge in dessert when at a restaurant or a dinner party.

The truth is that’s a once-, or maybe twice-a-week occasion in my life. I’m guessing that’s more or less true of you as well. If you consider that you eat on average 21 full meals in a seven-day week, eating out once or twice during that week is five or ten percent of your total food intake. A piece of cake, or whatever your special indulgence is, won’t hurt you on occasion. But put cupcakes in the house and you’re asking for trouble. And if you feel the urge to swing into 7-11 for a Big Gulp and a bag of chips, you’re way off base. Got to have midday snacks? Then when you’re on the road, keep healthy treats in the car.
Step 3: Stay smart about portion size.
As a nation, we love to “super size” everything. But in reality, a 4-ounce serving of pasta is a big difference from an 8-ounce portion. This is true across the board. It’s the one way we can get into trouble, even when staying home. When we don’t maintain some sense of caution about portion size, trouble—in the form of extra pounds and additional health concerns—is almost certain to follow.
Step 4: Stay vigilant.
That means to regularly ask yourself: “Am I making a smart food choice?” Here’s one example I can give: I have a habit of munching dry cereal from a cup. I’ll do that after a meal as a dessert, and sometimes between meals. I noticed that even though I was doing everything else right I put a couple of pounds back on. So I came up with another treat, believe it or not, lollipops. The calorie content is about a fifth of that dry cereal I was munching, it gives me that little bit of sweetness after a meal, and after ten days the extra two pounds faded away. Part of staying vigilant is putting yourself on a scale at least once a week. You’ve got a much better chance of keeping weight off if you take off a pound when it arrives than trying to drop five pounds that snuck back on in the month that you were not paying attention.
Step 5: Keep moving.
I walk every day, around five miles; and I also go to the gym four or five times a week. Trust me, I’m no athlete. But I know that sitting on the couch is not a good way to keep pounds off or to stay fit. So I do what I can, whether that means taking a parking space further away or spending thirty minutes in the garden, there are always choices that allow you to be more or less active. Choose wisely.
With the 5 easy steps, will you take weight off and keep it off? I’m an optimist so I’m going to say “Yes!” If nothing else, it’s an adventure. And if you succeed, the reward just might be a longer and much healthier life.

That’s worth fighting for, even if on occasion you have to pick yourself up and try, try again.


More SMW Health and Diet Advice

Weight Wars 1: Mindless Eating—and What You Can Do About It

Weight Wars 2: Healthy Snacks: Eat Right, Feel Great!

Weight Wars: The Midwest Spread