"Once I lose this weight, I'll never gain it back!" Sound familiar? Unfortunately, these are famous last words for many dieters. It takes more than determination and willpower to make that declaration stick. In fact, when a group of dieters were asked what contributed to them re-gaining weight, their answers had a common theme. Nearly all of them said, "I slipped back into my old habits."
Think about your own weight loss history. What are some "old habits" that easily get you into trouble? Is it buying chips or ice cream again after you've avoided them for months? Perhaps a couple of glasses of wine before dinner? Maybe you spend more time in the break room where you can't resist the doughnuts and other goodies. Or you slide back into using food to cope with stress or depression.
Identify your old habits
Take out a piece of paper and make a list of all the old habits that you know cause problems with your maintenance goals. Once you complete the list, keep it around to remind yourself of these danger areas. Then create a few strategies to protect yourself from letting these old habits sneak back into your life.
Now you have a good system for recognizing and preventing old patterns from causing the scale to go back up. But here's a funny thing-in the same way that it's easy to slip back into OLD habits, you can also slip AWAY from your healthy ones.
For example, how many times have you resolved to floss your teeth every day? Have you been able to make that into a habit? Personally, I have to re-create that one every couple of months!
Once you build new habits, you need to make them so strong that you can't imagine life without them. One of the best ways to do this is through repetition-doing the habit over and over until it feels permanent.
Replace old with new
On the piece of paper where you described old habits to avoid, create a list called "New Habits in My Life." Include some of the things you're already doing such as eating breakfast every day, not skipping meals and carrying a water bottle with you.
In your daily routines, look for ways to shake things up. For example, instead of heading straight for the refrigerator when you get home from work, try reading the mail over a cup of hot tea. Break up problem rituals by entering your driveway from the opposite side or using the back door of your home instead of your usual entrance.
When you're sitting down to watch TV football games, switch from drinking beer to having a diet soda. If you always search for something to eat before you get ready for to bed, consider relaxing with a warm bath.
Besides your routine, daily patterns, create habits that you can use year after year to manage holidays, birthdays or vacations. For example, if your family rituals include making huge meals or eating ice cream together, figure out how to stop yourself from automatically joining in. You might need to invent new ways to feel connected to others, even if you're the only person in the group who changes.
Old habits will get you in trouble every time. So instead of proclaiming you'll never gain your weight back, build a set of new habits and healthy patterns that will guarantee you can make this a reality.
About the author: Linda Spangle, RN, MA, is a weight-loss coach specializing in emotional eating, and the author of 100 Days of Weight Loss, a book of daily lessons that helps people stay committed to their diet and exercise plans. Contact Linda at Lspangle @ aol.com. Her website is www.foodiseasy.com.