Mary Ann, an overweight woman, age 47, tells me that she has been dieting since she was 20, lost significant amounts of weight several times on various diet plans, but kept gaining it back — and more — within a year or two every time. She asks tentatively, “How will this time will be different?” This question is often asked by people who have had a similar experience of weight loss and regain, and that’s because most programs do not provide strong maintenance plans or involve behaviorists, registered dietitians or physicians.
Tips for getting started in a weight loss program1. Realize upfront that the present weight-gaining lifestyle will have to change. 2. Keep a food record for a week to see where problem areas are. 3. Make a note about what old habits might try to creep back into the new future lifestyle. 4. Look into options for programs, whether it’s a magazine diet or a book, a commercial program, or a hospital-based program, research the benefits and drawbacks of each. Check with your physician to determine if the program is safe and effective. 5. Plan for accountability to someone to report progress and get feedback. 6. Select the best program and adhere to it as closely as possible, including diet, behavioral and exercise components. 7. Never, never, never give up.
Tips for creating a healthy environment — at home8. Talk with family members about being considerate and ask them to limit snacking in front of you if it could be a trigger. 9. If a particular food is too tempting, don’t bring it home, or at least buy just a small package of it. To incorporate this food into an eating pattern, plan scheduled times to eat smaller amounts. 10. Avoid buying ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat processed food; buy food that requires some preparation time. 11. Keep food in covered containers or on the top shelf in the cupboard. 12. After meals, put leftovers in the freezer. 13. Keep healthful foods on hand for when hunger strikes, such as vegetable sticks, fruits and salad makings. 14. Avoid keeping nuts or candies out in open bowls.
Tips for minimizing lapses — away from home15. Practice saying, “no, thanks!” if offered off-program foods at a friend’s or relative’s home. 16. At a restaurant, ask that the bread basket be removed after selecting one roll. 17. At a buffet, select healthy foods, then leave the vicinity of the buffet table. 18. Prepare a sampler plate at a holiday meal, choosing the most favorite or tempting items, omitting the less appealing everyday items. 19. Pack a cooler for less temptation to overeat or to eat unhealthy foods at work.
Tips for braving the food-filled jungle — grocery shopping20. Shop the outer perimeter of the grocery store, where the food groups of the Food Pyramid are located: dairy, bread/rolls, fruits and vegetables and meats. 21. Avoid bakery, candy, cookie, deli and other areas where prepared foods are easily accessible. 22. Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy choices to create a safe environment. 23. Never shop hungry. 24. Plan meals and snacks ahead of time, then prepare a shopping list and stick to it.