If you’re someone who managed to lose weight and keep it off, there’s a very good chance that you’re now practicing very different diet and lifestyle habits compared to before and this is something you’re able to maintain without too much effort, because this is just who you are now. For the most part, it is those who are able to adopt new, healthier habits which ultimately become their new normal, that are able to maintain weight loss long-term.
However, as a dietitian specialising in weight management (fancy way of saying weight loss), one of the most common phrases I hear is:
“I did the [insert one of 7 billion different diets] diet and it worked for me! I lost X amount of weight, but unfortunately, gained it back afterwards because of XYZ”.
(Usually because they stopped following the “diet” they were on)
There’s a good chance you’ve probably said something like this, and if you haven’t said it, there’s a good chance you know somebody who has said this before.
You wouldn’t go to a mechanic, have them repair a really expensive part on your car, then 3 months later expect to repair that same part again. We wouldn’t go around telling people how that mechanic was great and the part worked really well, when it didn’t last longer than a few months.
But when it comes to diets, if we’re able to lose weight on a particular diet, regardless of whether we keep that weight off or not, we still often claim that this particular diet “worked for me”, and this is often followed by:
“I need to get back on the [insert previous diet] – it worked really well for me”
Despite having gained back all the weight we’ve lost (and a little more on top), we convince ourselves that because we’ve had some success with a particular method previously, then that’s the way it should be done. Unfortunately, when it comes to weight loss, we’re very short-sighted.
We never think of the “what after?”
We very rarely consider what we’re going to do afterwards. If, for example, we’ve lost weight on a low-carb diet, but we absolutely love our carbs… what’s the long-term plan here? Do we just never get to enjoy carbs again? Are we going to sustain this diet for the rest of our lives? For most people, the answer is a very firm, no. Yet we will still convince ourselves that this is the correct approach because it’s worked before.
Allow me to challenge those thoughts and questions with the following question…
Did it actually work?
Did you really want to lose weight then regain it (and a bit more) to then have to start again but now be even heavier than before? I didn’t think so. The purpose of making diet/lifestyle changes to lose weight is to do just that – this doesn’t include regaining it all to then have to do it again and again and again.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there might be a million and one different as to why people may regain weight.
Life. Is. Challenging.
I get that. I get that we’re not robots. We can’t just be programmed to do something and sent on our way. Life happens to us all, including things like:
- Work-related stress/challenges
- Family/relationship-related stress/challenges
- Illness/health conditions
- Mental health difficulties – This doesn’t just mean the more obvious ones like anxiety/depression. It can include things like past trauma, sexual abuse and many more.
- Eating disorders
- And so much more.
And if we’ve always turned to food to soothe ourselves, it’s damn hard to not continue doing this.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint”
No, it really isn’t. It’s beyond a marathon. It’s beyond an ultra marathon. This is the rest of our lives we’re talking about. In order to have a good chance of achieving long-term change, we must think long-term when making any changes.
If you’re considering making any diet/lifestyles changes, firstly, ask yourself the simple question of:
“Can I still see myself doing this in 3, 6, 9, 12 months from now?”
If the answer to any of the above is “no”, then it’s likely this isn’t going to be a sustainable change for you personally.
Want to cut out all of your favourite foods/snacks/drinks because you want to lose weight? How long can you really keep that up for? And what’s the plan after you achieve your weight loss goals? Do we just re-introduce everything we’ve cut out and expect that this won’t cause our weight to go up again?
Become comfortable with the fact that is a long-term process
One of the key messages I try and get across when working with people is the importance of becoming comfortable with this being a long-term process. Weight loss, as unfair as it is, is just something that can’t be rushed if you want to make any significant progress. The faster we try and lose weight, the quicker we tend to give up because we can’t sustain all of the 1000 changes we’ve made in the last 2 weeks.
I completely understand that when it comes to weight loss, we want results yesterday. Time can feel like it comes to a standstill when we’re aiming for weight loss. However, the sooner we become comfortable with the fact that this might take much longer than you’d like, the more you can allow yourself to relax a bit and take your time by introducing small changes that you can keep up with over a longer period of time.
To summarise, the diet(s) you thought worked, likely didn’t. Unless you were able to lose weight and sustain that loss, it’s probably not something worth going back to.
Thinking of weight loss in terms of a “diet” has so many negative aspects. In order to adopt real, long-term change, we must aim to be extremely realistic with ourselves. This includes adopting realistic and sustainable habits.
Start small. I assure you, time passes quicker than you think. Small changes add up before you know it.