I just met with a client who really impressed me with some questions that tell me that she is on her way to really understanding not only how to lose weight, but how to keep it off for a lifetime. She has lost 9 pounds in the last 7 weeks and says she feels great! “My energy is better and I can fit back into some clothes I haven’t been able to wear for a while. I am excited about all of that, but I have been to this point before and gained it back. I would like to lose some more, but I really do feel great now.” Here are her questions, along with my responses:
Client: “Even though I feel so good, I don’t like the number I see on the scale. What should I weight?”
Kim: Let’s rephrase that. How about “What is the weight where my health and appearance are the best they can be, given the best lifestyle I can maintain at this time?” In other words, aim for the most sane and healthy lifestyle that you can currently maintain. The corresponding weight is your best weight FOR NOW. That may change, or it may not, depending on attitude and physical considerations in the future.
Client: “I have been playing around a little with some of the foods that I was really limiting while I was losing. I guess I was beginning to feel a little deprived, not being able to have those things. I had a fish fry on Friday – just one plate with 3 pieces of fish, a little bread and salad. I still lost weight over the last two weeks doing a little bit of that sort of thing, but I am nervous about gaining the weight back like I did before. What do you think I should do?
Kim: I would take some time to maintain for a while. Get used to what it means to maintain the current weight. Learn where your boundaries are, how much “pleasure food” you can add without gaining. When you have practiced being more flexible and making more choices without judgment, you will find the balance. The confidence that you can maintain will develop if you try being flexible in consistent, relatively small ways. It is much easier to see where the boundaries are if you eat fairly consistently from day to day. What I mean by that is this: add extra food in fairly consistent ways for the best predictability. Adding a small dessert every day, if that helps to keep from feeling deprived, can be a good strategy, and the results are easier to observe than eating a whole pie in one day, feeling guilty, and then not eating much the next day. Big fluctuations in eating from day to day are a signal that a person probably has not figured out a realistic lifestyle yet, which includes moderate eating, exercise, and other life skills like stress management. Weight fluctuations will most certainly be greater in that case, and that leads to a less predictable outcome and LESS security and confidence in the ability to maintain.
Client: “Are there any tips for knowing how much I can add and still maintain?”
Kim: Sure, you can do the math. If you have been losing at about a pound a week, which is what you have been doing, then 500 extra calories per day should be a maintenance level. Check labels, and use that information to help you decide. The main point to keep in mind is that the choice is always yours, so look at the information and decide if it’s worth it to you at that time. You can always make a different choice at a different time. This depends on how hungry you are, among other things.
Client: “I find myself thinking about all of this a lot. Is that the way it will always need to be?”
Kim: Practice with planning and decision-making in a non-judgmental way will help to make all of this seem more routine, and weight worries will actually decrease. I find that most people don’t mind the awareness and a little planning when they are confident about, and relatively comfortable with, their lifestyle. If the lifestyle is new, it may seem like more mental energy to set new habits in place, and that may be somewhat annoying. As habits become more familiar, the thought processes are usually seen as more positive than negative. In other words, it all becomes easier with time and practice!