Do you keep trying to lose weight? How about maintaining it instead!
Many people spend time thinking about or trying to lose weight, sometimes daily, but what about the idea of being the same weight in a decade from now – with no creeping weight each year!
Mostly, weight creeps up slowly over time until we eventually realise, usually with big and unwelcome surprise, that a new dress size or belt notch has emerged! A dress size is equivalent to about 5 kilos gained for women, and is unfortunately a lot harder to lose than catching and pulling back 1-2 kilos of creeping at the time.
The amount of weight that creeps up slowly mostly depends on how glucose intolerant your body is. For a non-glucose intolerant body, an average gain is anywhere between 0.5-2 kilos for a whole year. It doesn’t seem much of a gain for a whole year but multiply that by 10 years and you’ll see and feel the difference!! For a glucose intolerant body, the average weight gain can be anywhere between 3 -7 kilos per year and that is often paired with a gap in knowledge or utter despair of what to do to prevent it. The glucose intolerant body is one with high levels of insulin, which is a fat storing hormone. For the glucose intolerant body, the outcome of maintaining weight requires more planning and care.
It is estimated that as many as 95% of women have dieted at some point in their lives and often repeatedly, and at least 95% of weight loss does not stay off for the long term. Successful weight loss is considered one year or longer. Further to this, is that many women are unhappy with their current weight, with weight loss on their mind constantly. Increasingly, it is also a priority for men to focus on achieving a healthy weight.
With so much focus on weight loss, what if we shifted the focus to simply maintaining the weight we are? This cuts off the weight creep each year. This shift will help maintain more health and happiness, take pressure off and be a smart plan to bring more feelings of success.
Understanding the body set point
Did you know we each have a ‘set body point’? This is a weight that is stable, easy to maintain and is hopefully a healthy body weight for your height and frame. Imagine accepting your current weight and deciding that it is comfortable, healthy and ok for you? Oh, the mental freedom!
The body has homeostasis mechanisms that aim to keep everything the same, including your body set point. Calorie restriction diets increase it, causing more weight gain, not to mention the confusion and despair. There are correct ways for your set body point can be proactively re-corrected downward, but firstly I recommend nailing the art of maintaining weight.
Imagine having the skills to maintain your ‘natural’ weight over the years and taking the tussle of weight loss out of the equation! People who seem to maintain their weight ‘easily’ often actively manage for this outcome. Very few people can eat what they want and when they want and maintain their weight year after year. This group of people sit somewhere between 10-20% of the population. Men are able to do this more easily than women, who are endowed with efficient fat storage and an elaborate hormonal system to enable baby growing.
Guidelines to follow
- Decide on your baseline weight range. Weight range is not one number! Choose body scales, a tape measure or clothing – or all three. More details below
- Have a system to actively maintain your weight. Maintaining will not happen without you or a systematic process to manage it. Keep it simple but consistent. Choose from daily, weekly or monthly rhythms. Not having a plan for weight maintenance is likely to mean less chance of a successful outcome
- Beware of winters. There’s no denying it, winter is a time for ‘cosy’ food with relaxing, warm clothes that we can hide within. But taking your eye off the ball can allow weight to creep up
- Beware of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that activates with stress and poor sleep. It creates fat storage by interacting with other hormones, especially insulin which is a fat storing hormone. Treat stress and sleep as serious health concerns and actively manage them
- Hydrate your cells. Water allows hydrated cells to function efficiently and help with fat metabolism. Do not underestimate the power of full, hydrated and happy cells to support weight maintenance
- Do deals with yourself and have plans ready. Over the years, you will have learnt what strategies work best for you. Have some action plans ready to pull back any small gains quickly and easily. It is a decision in advance, it is conscious and it is timely because your system easily notices any gains
- Know your risk areas and stay mindful. We all have risk areas……visitors staying, holidays, festive seasons and celebrations, certain friends or associations…… Plan ahead for these situations, keep your weight monitoring tight and expect success. You are only ever one meal away from being back in the game – you have got this!
- Keep the helicopter view. Keep remembering that you want to maintain your weight long term so short term decisions and actions are needed. Keep doing deals with yourself and keep tracking
There are three ways to monitor your weight – body scales, a tape measure or measuring your clothing. Do one, two or all three ways to track yourself regularly. Looking in the mirror or feeling your weight are unreliable options because the brain can play tricks on us!
If you are a person who is comfortable to weigh daily or regularly without stress, this is a good option. Weight with scales in the same place, on a hard floor, first thing in the morning, after an empty bladder and without clothes for consistent information. It’s important not to aim for an exact weight, but instead, a weight range, usually within 1-2 kilos (a bigger range for a bigger body). Weight naturally fluctuates due to the complexities of hormones, fluid retention, bowels full or empty etc. Instead, set your weight range and stay within it. Any result in this range is acceptable and accept the inevitable fluctuations.
It is the visceral fat measurements in the torso area that matter. This is the harmful fat that gets in and around the organs. Decide on a few core measurements, use the tape measure in the same way each time, make up a chart and track yourself over time. Monthly measurements would be the longest time you would consider for checking. 1cm on the tape measure equals approximately 1 kilo. Measuring is the most reliable way to track visceral fat – the fat that matters.
This option is harder for managing smaller gains. Choose 1-3 garments that fit ‘just right’ – perhaps a top, a bottom and a dress for women and a belt for men. Learn how to analyse and accurately assess the fit each fortnight or month (first thing in the mornings?). Five kilos is a dress size which requires a serious ‘pull-back’. Don’t go there!
Pulling weight back into your range
It is easier to pull weight back into range when it is 1-2 kilos or centimeters over, rather than 5!
Act quickly, be honest with yourself and have your plan ready. It won’t be for long. You have 24-48 hours to manage any excesses, after that the body has no choice but to store it as fat. Managing it might mean more movement and water, less food or some fasting. It is the carbs that will make you hungry.
If you ‘jump’ out of your weight range suddenly, more than 1-2 kilos, it is likely to be inflammation by way of fluid retention. If so, it is not weight gain, so allow a day or two for it to settle back down, and in meantime keep food choices simple!
So what should you eat to ensure that you can maintain your weight? In a nutshell, skip the diets, shakes, pills or calorie restriction and head to real, whole food that is low carb, healthy fat food and introduce regular intermittent fasting (8 to 16 hours). This will support sensible and realistic weight maintenance. Stop snacks and allow time in between meals for the body to rest and digest. Consider seeking individual guidance and support for cravings or habits that will not support you. It is not something to manage on your own.
But I want to lose weight!
This is another topic! We recommend achieving the art of maintaining weight, and not gaining it, and then have a think about weight loss. Your set body point can be proactively re-corrected downward but it must not be achieved from calorie restriction alongside more exercise. If lowered incorrectly, sooner or later, your body will find its way back to your set body point and probably increase. Yo-yo weights must be avoided to avoid further weight problems.
The ideal strategy is to maintain a stable weight, even if it is higher than you would like – for now!.