You’ve achieved weight-loss or a more fit and toned body thanks to a diet and fitness regime and you’re delighted.
You want more than anything to maintain the results of your transformation long-term, but you’re not sure how.
Dieters tend to put most of the weight they’ve lost back on, but there are some measures you can employ to give yourself the best chances of maintaining your new shape for life.
Keep up your new habits
You should incorporate everything you have learned into your new healthy lifestyle as forever-habits, including continuing to work out regularly and eating right.
Keep educating yourself because knowledge is empowering and informs you specifically and scientifically why you’re doing what you’re doing.
At the same time, try not to over-complicate things.
Fitness expert, Karen Cummings Palmer of STRIPPD protein says: ‘The best way to keep the weight off is to move a little, a lot.’
This means walking when you could get the bus, taking the stairs when you could get the lift, and doing the grocery shopping in-store when you could do it online.
Of course, keep going to the gym as well, perhaps for an hour three to four times a week to help burn off cheat meals, promote cardiovascular health and retain muscle shape and tone.
If you stop training, chances are your metabolism rate will drop and you’ll stop frying calories at the same rate.
Mix it up
If there’s one particular exercise programme that’s helped you shift the pounds over 12 weeks you may feel emotionally attached to it, thinking this is the way to better your health and body.
But it’s so important to change the exercise you do to keep your metabolism high and your workouts entertaining and exciting.
When you start finding what you’re doing easy and your body is working less hard, mix it up.
So if all you’ve been doing is cardio and weights for three months, try swapping in one dynamic yoga class and one boxing session to your weekly regime.
Get used to new portions
When you’ve lost the weight you wanted to lose, the diet and exercise regime doesn’t end.
You should figure out your ‘maintenance diet’ – how much you should eat of what to keep your new size and shape.
Ideally you would have lost weight through a method which is healthy to be employed long-term, so you can continue with those habits but with slightly higher calories so that you’re just-about not continuing to lose weight.
You should eat a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein, avoiding sugar, trans-fats and most saturated fats.
Remember that your new, lighter body will need less fuel at its new weight than it did before.
If you go back to eating the same foods and quantities you ate before you lost weight, you will most probably put it all back on very quickly.
If you find this difficult, try to track your macro and calorie intake using an app such as My Fitness Pal.
Get a good night’s sleep
Aim for seven to eight hours of good quality sleep a night.
Even mild sleep deprivation can causes a hunger-stimulating hormone called ghrelin to go into overdrive and the levels of appetite-suppressing leptin to dip.
You could try devising a relaxing bedtime routine to help you sleep better.
Switch off the TV and other electronic devices an hour before bed, make your room pitch black with the lights off and try lavender oil or spray to unwind.
Daily yoga and running, which battle stress, may also help. Good sleep and less stress reduce your cortisol levels, which can make you crave sugar and fat-laden foods.
Stop seeing junk food as a reward
You’ve heard that emotional eating is an unhealthy habit, because food solves no problems except hunger.
But it works the other way round too: If you reward yourself with unhealthy food or drink every time you’ve achieved something – be it a promotion or weight loss goal – it can eventually make you gain weight.
The occasional cheat meal is important, though. If you deprive yourself too much you may begin to resent your new lifestyle and slow down your metabolism. There’s a balance and you should keep yourself in check.
Try to pat yourself on a back with a manicure instead of a cheeseburger once in a while and your newly-trim waistline will thank you.
Keep up your protein intake
A high protein intake may have helped to keep your muscle tone as you’ve lost fat on your diet regime, but it’s so important to keep eating lots of it to maintain your figure.
Not only does protein help repair muscles but it also keeps your metabolism working fast. The more muscle mass you have the faster you burn calories, so it’s a win-win.
The minimum recommended intake is 0.8g of protein to kg of body weight per day – so for someone who weighs 58kg (130lbs) this would be at least 58g of protein. I eat double this, though!
Try incorporating protein into every meal, for example protein powder in your breakfast porridge, kidney beans and quinoa at lunchtime and lots of tofu for dinner.
Keep track of your body
It’s good to continue to track the state of your figure.
You could weigh yourself once in a while, perhaps once a week or once a month, or take your width measurements once a fortnight (waist, legs, arms and hips).
Or if you really don’t like weighing or measuring yourself, take a good look in the mirror every day, and take notice if your trusty jeans feel too tight a few days in a row to see if you’re gaining weight.
If you are, check back with the points above to see if there’s anything you can do to halt the weight creeping back on.
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