By Dr. Laurie Teitelman, ND
Can’t Keep It Off? Losing Weight is the Easy Part. Let’s face it; we all know that losing weight isn’t the hard part. Many of us have tried some form of a diet and have seen results in the short term. But few people successfully maintain weight loss in the long term once they are not in the active ‘dieting’ phase. Several studies reveal that the majority of people in weight loss programs actually regain most of the pounds – and sometimes more – within three to five years. What is going on here?!
According to a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the key to keeping the weight off for good is by eating a diet rich in protein and that contains low-glycemic carbohydrates. Those who followed this plan actually continued to lose weight during the maintenance phase!
The glycemic index (GI) indicates how carbohydrate-rich foods affect blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. Most highly processed grain products (e.g. white bread, pastries, white rice, cereal bars, sweets) have a high GI and cause blood sugar to spike after eating, putting you at increased risk for Diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, Obesity, Heart Disease, and the like, especially when eaten regularly.
Meals with a low GI are thought to cause changes in hormones and metabolism which, in turn, can reduce hunger and prevent overeating. Minimally processed grains (e.g. brown rice, whole-grain or brown rice pasta, large oat flakes, whole rye bread), whole fruits, legumes and vegetables have a low GI, which when after they’re eaten, lead to a slower and healthier rise in blood sugar.
Keeping your weight stable requires the same level of commitment as when you’re losing weight. Adjusting the carbohydrate and protein content of your diet will help increase your odds of maintaining weight loss, but there are other strategies you should consider.
The following tips will help you stay focused, motivated and on top of your food intake…
Include protein in your three meals and two snacks per day. Replace calories from refined (white) starchy foods with lean versions of protein like lean meat, fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. These protein-rich foods delay the rate at which food is emptied from your stomach and keeps you feeling full longer.
All about portion size, especially when dining out. It’s up to you to make the right choices: skip the bread and dessert; if drinking, opt for a glass of red wine; save half of your meal in a take-away bag for another meal the next day.
Choose low GI foods and avoid eating processed and sugary foods. Wise options are beans, lentils, nuts, brown rice pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, large-flake oatmeal, organic yogurt, and almond milk. Low GI fruits include apples, oranges, peaches, pears and berries; opt for organic whenever you can.
Revitalize and focus, even after you hit your goal weight; it’s easy to get sloppy and allow portion sizes to creep up, extra nibbles sneak in and the motivation to work out can wane. Try keeping a food and lifestyle diary for one week each month. “You Bite It, You Write It,” as you keep track of every bite, including your portion sizes, as well as exercise. Refresh your memory about serving sizes by measuring and weighing your foods again.
Step on the scale and make friends with the bathroom scale. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a continuing U.S.-based study tracking more than 5,000 people who have successfully lost significant amounts of weight and kept if off for long periods of time, reported that 75% of participants weigh themselves at least once a week. Use the scale as an opportunity to detect early warning signals and correct small increases in weight quickly and regularly.
Moving past slip-ups will help put an end to small weight gain before it adds up. If a few pounds creep back on, don’t dwell on your lapses. Take action to lose them: Reinstate your food diary for a few weeks, go back to measuring food portions or add an extra workout each week.
Check in with your Doctor: Research shows that having personal contact with someone who helps guide your nutrition at least once a month (be it face-to-face or over the telephone) is associated with better weight loss maintenance. Feel free to reach out and ask for support from a family member, co-worker or friend.
Exercising regularly is how 90% of those in the NWCR report successfully maintained their weight; they each reported getting one hour of scheduled exercise each day, often brisk walking.