I have lost hundreds of pounds since I become overweight around age 26, which means I have regained hundreds of pounds also. Now at the age of 55 and through menopause, the ease of weight loss just isn’t so easy any more. Perhaps that’s “a good thing” as Martha Stewart would comment.
One of the most ironic aspects of my life is that my years in health research focused on health behavior, so I know exactly what one should do for successful health behavior change and maintenance. Ah, but the knowing and the doing and the feeling somehow just aren’t the same are they? Or, no one would smoke; we would all wear seat belts; there would be no fire arm accidents, etc.
Back on track… I finally reached the stage of commitment to weight loss and maintenance (after years of dejection from repeated regaining) and, spurned on by a surgery unrelated to weight problems, found the self-confidence that I could act on life-style changes. [Those interested in the Stages of Change Model for voluntary behavior change can read here a brief and very elementary intro about how people successfully modify their behaviors.]
First, I had to identify which behaviors I wanted to change. Weight loss is a goal – not a behavior. There are no less one than gazillion behaviors tied into losing weight. That’s right, exactly one gazillion. One must identify which behaviors are specific for you before springing into action. For me, the starting behavior changes are:
- restricting my calories to 1500kcal/day on average in a week
- aiming for a balance between protein, fat and carbs
- spreading out my food intake throughout the day, which means eating breakfast
- no food after 7pm
- no red meat
- no ice cream (the ultimate trigger food for my binging)
- minimal refined grains and grain products
- adding at least 3 fresh fruits/vegetables per day
- shopping only for fresh produce
- limiting what is in the cupboard/frig to what is acceptable to eat
- no artificial sweeteners or drinks with artificial sweeteners – sweet stimulates me to eat more sweets
- monitoring everything calorie that goes into my mouth (I use the Livestrong.com site)
- charting my weight twice a week
- being physically active 30 minutes a day, beyond job and household activities
To help me do these things, I enlisted the support of my partner (too many negotiations to go into here) and got her to agree to help in ways that are acceptable to both. I announced to family and close friends my plans and asked for their support – mainly by not offering me food. I joined a support group. We rearranged the kitchen and threw out or gave away everything we would not eat. I found substitute behaviors for my late night eating, e.g. drinking hot tea (bought new mugs, fancy water kettle, special teas), made the bath more spa-like for reading in the tub rather than eating in front of the TV. I chose rewards for certain goals reached. Started this silly blog. I also gave myself permission to go off plan for special occasions – to prevent me from binging because I had “blown it” by eating chocolate or dessert or had a 5 course dinner including red meat for Christmas eve. LIFE GOES ON!
I will continue to revisit my behavior change list, expecting to change caloric intake and activity levels. If something doesn’t work, I will throw it out. I will continue to seek wisdom from those who have succeeded in maintaining weight loss and from those who are on the same journey.
What are your behavior changes and mechanisms for keeping them going?