It’s great to go on a diet and lose weight in a blaze of glory.
However, losing weight is only useful if you then keep it off and continue the healthy habits that you’ve been developing during your diet.
I dropped over a stone in weight in two months at the beginning of 2012.
The diet is over – now it’s time to eat sensibly and exercise regularly.
Shifting from dieting to healthy eating.
Diets are great if you have a weight loss goal and want to reach it quickly. If you want a specific result then you have to measure your variables: I used Weight Watchers to track my food intake and found it incredibly helpful.
Thing is, you can’t diet forever. At some point, you need to shift from dieting to healthy eating. It’s essential to develop your own lifelong habits to enable to gauge whether you’re eating a sensible amount – otherwise you’ll get stuck on a merry-go-round of yo-yo dieting.
Having used Weight Watchers for a year (starting off strictly and then easing off as I found healthy eating skills of my own) I’ve developed a few good habits. So here’s what I learned from my year of Weight Watchers – hopefully it will help me to keep the weight off for good.
“you can’t diet forever”
Healthy eating is not about misery. You should not expect to avoid indulgence and decadence for the rest of your life in pursuit of a healthy weight. My routine includes taking one evening and one full day a week to eat as I please. I’m not talking about downing 3 litres of ice cream and a gallon of beer every week. But I am talking about a pub lunch, nice evening meal, cake from a stall, bacon sandwiches . . . all the things that make life fun.
Everything in moderation.
It’s tedious to hear, and you probably rolled your eyes when reading the heading – but it’s true, you can have everything in moderation. I went to Seville whilst on my diet and ate amazing tapas and red wine every day for five days. When getting home I was convinced I’d put on weight . . . but I hadn’t. I’d lost several pounds. The tapas was tasty and really enjoyable, and I equated this with ‘unhealthy’ food. In reality, it was just very well made food in small portions.
“Walking briskly for an hour can be similar to a 20-30 minute gym session”
Exercise does not mean a sweaty mission in the gym.
Another reason for losing weight in Seville was walking. The weather was great, I was in a new city, and I wanted to explore. In five days I walked almost fifty miles. Between the walking and the tapas I lost 5 pounds in 5 days.
Walking briskly for an hour can be similar to a 20-30 minute gym session. If you can walk to and from work then it’s similar to going to the gym – but doesn’t cost anything (and might actually save you money by avoiding petrol/bus fare) and fits naturally in to your day. Most importantly, it avoids the need to get sweaty in a room full of strangers and be condescended to by a teenage gym instructor on a power trip.
Losing weight is hard – know your triggers for unhealthy eating.
None of this should detract from the fact that losing weight is hard. There are times when you just want a cheeseburger and a beer. The thing that made weight loss most difficult for me was being tired. When I’m tired my self-resolve evaporates.
Linked to this, another trigger for poor diet was not doing a food shop – not having the ingredients needed to make healthy meals immediately when getting home tired after a long day at work is frustrating, and was the thing most likely to lead to unhealthy eating.
I’m sure that these triggers vary form person to person, but the principle is the same. Be aware of yours and work around them – I brought my sleep under control and made sure I went food shopping at the weekends in order to make healthy eating as easy as possible.
“There are times when you just want a cheeseburger and a beer”
The recipe for success.
I found it really handy to have some reliable recipes (bolognese, stir fry, frittata, soup, etc) that I could do healthy versions of very quickly using ingredients that I regularly buy.
The prize for completing a diet is to eat sensibly and exercise frequently. For ever. But hopefully the habits you develop during your diet mean that this is actually less daunting than it sounds. I’ve summarised the main learning and habits that emerged during my diet – hopefully I can now make the shift from dieting to eating sensibly and make sure that the weight stays lost.