Losing weight and keeping it off is a tricky, emotional, and full time job; and is something I not only do in my everyday life, but something I help coach other women with. Losing weight can be fun - there's all the milestones, goals, and rewards of seeing changes every day. But keeping it off long-term can be even harder than the initial weight loss, despite what people tell you.
For me it took two attempts to lose 120 pounds permanently. First time round I lost 90 pounds by taking every possible shortcut - there were diet pills, meal replacements, starvation sessions, binges, and a whole host of nasty habits happening. Unsurprisingly this led to me having difficulty maintaining my weight loss as the initial groundwork and foundations weren't there and I hadn't dealt with the years of bad habits that had ingrained themselves in me.
So the weight began to pile back on through binges, booze fests, and pity party's. Eventually I realised I needed to set off on another weight loss mission to lose the now remaining 60 pounds.
From trial and error and experience in coaching other women in my business, five things that I learnt over the years to put in place as my foundations for successful permanent weight loss (and maintenance) are as follows.
1. Nutrition is key: Losing weight doesn't come down to a calories in calories out debate. It is so much more than this. Skipping meals (followed by the inevitable binges), excessive restrictions, diet pills and diet products do not help. They wreak havoc on your body, your mood, your hormones, and your metabolism. When I stopped trying to take shortcuts and began to tune in to what worked for my body and my gut and ate real healthy food regularly, the weight began to budge effortlessly and permanently - plus it had monumental effects on my state of wellbeing and sleep. Eating real nutritious food is key.
2. Nourishing exercise is important and it speeds up results: I used to hate exercise. I saw it as a form of punishment. Even back in high school I would fake sick notes in order to get out of gym class. But when I began to exercise as a way to simply nourish my body, improve it, and have fun, I started to enjoy it and my body began to respond the way I had hoped it would and I lost weight quicker than when I was stressing my body and punishing it in the way I assumed I had to (in fact going too hard with exercise can make you gain weight as you don't allow your body adequate time to rest and recover and you can place too much stress on your adrenal glands and end up gaining more weight due to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol!). Make sure you add in low impact exercise to your training routine like walking, yoga, stretching, or swimming.
3. The Scales can be detrimental: I previously used the scales as a way to determine how much punishment to inflict or how much I could binge because I had lost (or gained) X amount of weight from the day before. It was a torturous balancing game. When I finally realised that a number on a scale does not define my sense of worth, my life (and my body) became lighter. I used the scales weekly to see how on track I was and relied on measurements, how I felt, how my clothes fit, and progress photos as indications to how I was progressing.
4. Hating my body didn't help: Before I lost weight I hated my body; this led to hugely detrimental effects in my daily life as I didn't sleep well, I was depressed, my hormones were all over the shop, and my attitude towards my own self-care was basically non-existent. Not the sort of adequate formula for successful long-term weight loss. Changing and challenging the thoughts you have about yourself are huge. Even after losing weight I began to then see my loose skin and stretch marks as 'ugly' and began feeling bad about my body again. When I began to further learn to love myself and accept my body as it was I was able to see these do not define me, alter me, or affect my health, but that they are merely a depiction of a part of my life and are proof that I have added years to my life. Plus if you look at them like tiger marks it makes them a little more interesting!
5. I am the expert when it comes to my body: For so many years I let other people tell me how and what to do when it came to my body. I got so strict with having to do something exactly as it was laid out in a diet or workout plan that I would get upset and punish myself if I did it "wrong." I finally took a step back and realised that every single person (and their bodies) are unique and therefore no one way of eating or exercising suits everyone; which is what I coach my clients to discover and do.
By implementing and reminding myself regularly of these foundations, I have been able to keep the weight off permanently and have become happier and healthier than I imagined. By listening to my body, appreciating it, loving it, nourishing it, and no longer punishing it, it responded exactly as it should and treated me well back.