One of my long-standing patients has lost 150 pounds. Now, before you start thinking, “Wow – that’s a lot of weight” or “I wonder how she did that?,” let me just say that she didn’t lose it all at once. In fact, she’s lost the same 30 pounds five times now. She’s a classic “yo-yo dieter” – her weight goes up and down, but rarely stays in one place for long. It’s long been recognised that people are more likely to yo-yo when they adopt weight loss regimes that are too strict to stick with over the long haul. Once a dietary slip turns into a fall, old habits resume, the weight goes back on and the cycle starts all over again.
There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and eager to get your weight under control. Having the desire and the drive to meet your goal is half the battle in getting there. But recognise that trying to do too much, too quickly could be your undoing. Be realistic about how much you can change at once, and accept whatever those changes deliver in terms of weight loss.
Keeping track of your progress is a tried-and-true strategy for keeping yourself on course. And finding sources of support is helpful, too. Exercise buddies are great, and some people find a lot of value in the support they get through online communities. Finally, be flexible, and learn from your mistakes. If you try an exercise regime or a new food that you don’t really enjoy, then try something else. Remember that the goal isn’t to lose as much weight as you can as quickly as you can – you want to establish healthy patterns of eating and exercise that will help you get your weight down and keep it there.
Clearly, a good part of solving the yo-yo dilemma has to do with changing your behaviour. Eating smaller, more frequent meals. Making sure to include protein at each meal and snack. Planning ahead, keeping track of progress and enlisting help are all key to success. A quick sprint towards the finish line – followed by a jog in the other direction – isn’t going to get you anywhere. When it comes to successful weight loss, slow and steady definitely wins the race.
Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.