Top Ten Weight Loss / Maintenance Power Tips: On the Road to Weight Wellness
1. Keep a food diary.
Recording your daily intake (time of day, foods, amounts, and emotions) increases awareness. And if you are an emotional eater (eating related to feeling states, not in response to hunger), you need to become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. It’s harder to fool yourself about what you are eating and why, when you see it in black and white. If you are accurate, you will identify trouble times, patterns and situations. Problem solve around these areas to ensure success.
2. Plan your foods and prepare for meals.
Learn about high-yield nutrition and portion control, and plan meals accordingly. Prepare meals when you have time (over the weekend, the night before), so you are not making choices at the last minute, when you are hungry or pressed for time and more likely to behave impulsively. If you are eating for health and to satisfy hunger, you will not crave food to make up for nutritional deficiencies. Also, eat a small, nutritious snack during a long stretch between meals, to reduce bingeing at the next meal. Chew your food, slow down and breathe; this will give your brain a chance to signal satiety and decrease the tendency to overeat.
3. Keep trigger foods out of your environment (home, car, office).
Trigger foods are those foods that are ones that you usually overeat; they are often high in fat and sugar or salt. In the effort to achieve weight wellness, understand that it does not make you stronger to resist temptation – you simply overwhelm your coping resources. If you have trigger foods around, throw them out and keep them out. Replace those foods with a variety of highly nutritious foods that take some time to prepare. Delay impulses to eat (especially trigger foods) when you are not hungry, and ride out cravings. If the deprivation of something you miss having is going to set you up for a binge, better to purchase a small amount if possible, or buy it, put a portion you intend to eat on a plate, throw out the rest (where you absolutely cannot retrieve it, or destroy it by mixing it with garbage like coffee grounds or something yucky), and then eat what you had set aside. Better to waste a bit of food than to wear it (and continue to endanger your health).
4. Eat breakfast.
Eating in the morning will kick-start your metabolism. Eat when you need the fuel. Your metabolism is higher in the morning than in the evening, so calories eaten earlier in the day are burned faster than those eaten later. As you are resting in the evening, your need for calories is decreased, and you will also sleep better if your stomach isn’t full. Your body will be freed up to do other maintenance and repair work at night if it does not have to be busy with digestion.
5. Combine aerobic and weightlifting exercises.
Increasing your activity level translates to increased metabolism. Also, one pound of your body’s muscle uses up more energy than one pound of body fat, thus burning more calories, so you will look thinner at the same weight if you have a higher muscle:fat ratio. It is best to strike a balance between burning fat through exercises that sustain a target heart rate, and building muscle through weight-bearing and weight-resistance exercises. (Note: everyone should have a physical before embarking on an exercise program that will increase current activity level.)
6. Therapeutic relaxation and recreation.
Engage in activities regularly that you find helpful in reducing your stress, which will improve your mental and physical state, and also reduce food cravings. These activities should be enjoyable, so that the actions involved will be self-reinforcing and thus you will be more likely to repeat them.
7. Get enough sleep.
Most adults need 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Proper rest is a priority for weight management (and a number of other purposes), as people commonly overeat due to sleep deprivation. With sufficient sleep, not only will you be less stressed, and therefore be less likely to crave foods, you will be more able to resist food cravings.
8. Positive realism.
Do you have a harsh inner critic? If so, negative self-talk (also called “internal dialogue”) could be responsible for a large part of your problems. Instead, treat yourself with dignity, and talk to yourself with respect. Work on reducing negative thought patterns by replacing them with realistically positive ones. Restructuring negative ways of thinking is the central focus of Cognitive Therapy, a highly effective approach geared toward changing a person’s thoughts, feelings and behavior.
9. Confront your issues.
Emotional baggage poses a huge obstacle to achieving weight wellness. Your weight may be sending you a message to pay attention, and until you do, you will continue to use food and weight as a way to avoid or escape. It is difficult to face the pain, but unless you know what you are running from, you can’t overcome it. However, you needn’t do it alone. Therapy is a good place to work on these issues and learn how to cope more effectively, rather than using food to push the feelings down.
10. Clean up your social network.
Sift out the saboteurs from the supporters. Reduce or eliminate your involvement with those who tend to undermine your efforts. Supportive people will cheer you on, give you constructive guidance, provide accurate information, and be there for you emotionally. Know whom you can go to for what, and when. Also, and perhaps most important, be a good friend to yourself.
Set a realistic goal (the healthy weight that you can realistically maintain), have a realistic timeline, and a workable plan. Then keep to your commitment, maintain your lifestyle changes, and you will not only lose the weight, but keep it off. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for each success, no matter how small. Be consistent and persistent as you proceed, one step at a time.
Changing from the inside out to achieve a significant lifestyle change is no easy task. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, a therapist serves as a guide, partner and coach in helping you to make key changes in negative thought and behavior patterns, which in turn directly affect your mood and self-esteem. If you live or work in the NYC area and wish to find out more about services offered by Cognitive Therapy Associates, please call Dr. Allison Kahner, CTA’s Clinical Director, at 212-258-2577.