To Your Health: You’ve Got to Have a Plan – Maintaining a Desirable Weight

In my previous article in November, “The Key to Losing Weight: Determination, Discipline and a Plan,” I wrote about the weight loss program I use for any of my clients interested in losing weight. I used the words “simple plan” to help them understand what is needed to lose weight. It boils down to burning more calories on a daily basis than you take in and, of course, doing this over a period. The plan I outlined in November is a 40-day plan and requires much determination and discipline (i.e., no sweets or high-calorie snacks). The plan does work. It’s worked for me and has for many of my clients through the years. But, there also needs to be a plan for keeping the weight off once one goes through the “diet” stage. In other words, how do I keep the weight off over time once I lose it? That can be answered in two simple words: lifestyle change. To lose weight, there have to be drastic changes made to reduce our caloric intake to at least 500 calories per day less than what our body is burning. Remember, to gain weight one has to have a daily positive caloric intake, so it’s probably going to take a reduction of more than 500 calories daily to start the weight loss process. This can be drastic!

So, where is the balance between the drastic cuts it takes to lose weight and getting back to a more normal caloric intake without the weight coming back? I’m probably as good as anyone to answer this question because I’ve been fighting this battle since my late 30s and have come up with good enough results to maintain a desirable weight. The first realization I had to come to grips with was that the athletic or model-ish type of body we see on TV was going to take an extraordinary amount of time, effort and discipline to attain. Is it worth spending 15 hours a week working out, cutting out some of my favorite foods, having the discipline to say “no” every time I go to a party or holiday get together so that I could see that six pack at night when I took my shirt off? For me, the answer to that question was “no.” So, where did the balance come for me? It all comes down to those numbers I got at my yearly physical. Our body has a way of telling us if our lifestyle is conducive to maintaining good health without a daily weigh in. If the cholesterol, resting heart rate, blood pressure and some of the other numbers that are directly related to my diet, exercise and healthy living were good, I knew I was maintaining a healthy weight. This does not mean I don’t check the scale because I do on a weekly basis. Now that I am comfortable with my desirable weight, I can stay within a five-pound range of that weight most of the year.

Now, what are the rules for maintaining the weight once you’ve lost it? First, let me say this is coming from one who loves sweets of any variety. They are strictly off limits for me during the week. My reward for being good during the week is a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night dessert. For someone that loves sweets like I do, it’s more of a mindset of being disciplined enough to make it through the week and the reward coming on the weekend. The same can be said about my “big” meal of the day, which for me is dinner. Monday through Thursday, the meals consist of grilled chicken or fish with a salad or vegetables and my reward of burgers, spaghetti and pizza come on the weekend. I eat very healthy low-calorie meals for breakfast and lunch during the week with the guarantee of my favorite sandwich — peanut butter and jelly — waiting for me on the weekend.

I know this may sound a little quirky and not the best of plans. The one thing I do know is you have to have a plan, and you must stick to it. Throughout the year, someone has picked up doughnuts at Krispy Kreme or brought in a birthday cake to be shared. It might seem unappreciative, but I have to decline. Doesn’t bother me to say I’d love to take home a piece of cake and enjoy it on the weekend. I am asked to go out and eat lunch or breakfast with friends, but I politely decline. For me, it’s much easier to have the discipline to say “no” than to go out and order healthy food when that menu is full of foods I’d rather have.

Finally, other general rules I have. Stay away from fast food as much as possible. Yes, I love Bojangles’ biscuits and how easy it is to pick one up on the way to work, but fast foods are high in calories and fats and shouldn’t be part of a daily diet. Exercise is imperative. No matter what your exercise of choice, it should include high intensity, strength resistance training. It’s the only way to build lean tissue that will help our metabolism rate to remain high throughout our life. The last thing — don’t get discouraged if you add a little weight. For me, this is a ritual from Thanksgiving until the end of the year. The discipline I maintain throughout 11 months of the year gets severely tested during the holiday season. The result is being over my desired weight by the New Year. I, like many, make the resolution to lose that weight and get back on my plan. By the time this article reaches you, it’s going to be a new year. I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year — let’s get back at it!