March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
While losing extra weight can be challenging, keeping the weight off can be even more challenging. Most people who lose weight gain it back, but there are a handful of key strategies research has suggested helps keep the weight off for good.
On the scale, that is. People who maintain their weight loss are were more likely to continue weighing themselves on a scale regularly than people who gain back their weight loss. "I am a big proponent of weighing yourself regularly," says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a former spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "That's something that's found in the National Weight Control Registry about people who have maintained their weight loss for years." So how often should you step on the scale? "If you weigh yourself every morning, that can really nip in the bud any weight gain, or start to show you some weight loss," Giancoli says. When it comes to checking weight, Giancoli believes timing is everything. Do your weigh-in at the same time each day, preferably first thing in the morning.
Keep It Going
To maintain weight loss, you have to maintain the behaviors that helped you lose the weight in the first place. Weighing yourself regularly is one of those good behaviors; Giancoli lists eating breakfast, journaling to keep track of food intake and exercise habits, and practicing portion control as other key actions for success. "Practicing portion control is a really big deal," Giancoli says. "That seems to work better than calorie counting."
Be a Problem Solver
Weight loss maintainers more often used productive problem solving skills. "Planning ahead is important, but being able to catch yourself in the moment is important as well," says Giancoli. She suggests building exercise into your daily routine. She also urges clients to think beyond their workout for physical activity, and do things such as park far away from the grocery store and bring your cart back after loading up your car.
Talk to Yourself
Those who maintain weight loss were are more likely to engage in positive self-talk. And that doesn't necessarily mean chatting to the mirror. Journaling can be a form of positive verbal reinforcement. Giancoli says that journal keepers should be honest and consider their journals a judgment-free zone. How to dip below a plateau if you're still trying to lose — or if you do start to regain? Try shaking up your exercise routine rather than slashing calories drastically. "Do a different type of activity that your muscles aren't used to doing, and you'll be burning calories again," Giancoli assures.