I recently received a question from someone asking me avoid falling off the wagon and stop regaining weight. In this person’s words “Once I break the habit once it takes a long time to go back on track. Once I open the door to exceptions the “gates are open!””
This is by far the most challenging aspect of weight loss for most people. Have you ever lost weight, been happy with the result, let yourself eat slightly differently than when you lost weight and ended up regaining the weight?
Then, looking at yourself a year later, feeling sad and upset that you had achieved your goal, or almost reached your goal, and now looked the way you previously did? You are not alone, more than 80% of people who lose weight regain it. It’s actually very rare for people to lose weight and maintain weight loss in the long term.
So what’s the difference between the people that can maintain their weight loss and the people that regain the weight.
One of the most important things, but often forgotten, Is that habits are one of the key principles to everything that you managed to do well and everything you manage to do poorly in life. This is why FAD diets will not work. They do not become a habit, they are purely a short-term waste of time. During a January weight loss cycle no actual habits are required or built. In fact the complete opposite is true because you know that it is only for a short time that you need to behave a certain way.
For you to crave something you need to be have a cue. In other words, you need to become aware of something before you can desire something. This cue can be as small as going into a supermarket.
Example: You walk into a supermarket in which you usually buy a snack.
From now on every time you walk into the supermarket you will crave a snack, even if 5 minutes before you didn’t. You are essentially experiencing the same thing as Pavlov’s dog. Cues can be pictures, smells, sounds and more.
Immediately following the cue, you will experience the craving. Cravings are what throw you off course. Your cravings lead to poor choices, often the choices that made you overweight in the first place. It’s crucial for you to understand this, as it will give you more control over your life.
Example 2: You usually have a snack when you watch TV. Every time you go to turn on the TV or think about watching the TV you will want to get some sort of snack. (This is an example out of my own life)
Connection to stop regaining weight
If you’ve lost weight but these cues are still in place, maintaining weight loss will be extremely difficult. Habits have to be one of the first steps in weight loss or if you want to stop regaining weight. Not only will you return the way that made you want to lose weight, you will also still maintain all the habits that our counterproductive to you being successful.
The people that lose weight are those that change their habits and minimise exposure to cues. Long-term you can unlearn cues and they will have a minimal impact on your life. Here is an example from my life:
After my father was diagnosed with cancer, he decided to change his eating habits. They had never been terrible but he had a tendency to over eat chocolate and snack quite a lot. Food quality wasn’t at the forefront of his thoughts and going to the supermarket always involved devouring a bar of galaxy chocolate or similar.
He refused to have dessert in the hospital (this meant not having it on the table and thus removing the cue). Instead he made sure he always had healthy options nearby should he be hungry. Since overcoming the battle he has maintained the habit of not having sweet food in the house and eating quality meals every time.
The take away is this, to stop regaining weight you need to remove cues and make adjustments you can maintain. Don’t follow a juice diet, don’t use other ridiculous strategies because you think they will yield fast results. What good are fast results if you have to punish yourself again in a few months?