They call it the honeymoon period–the first year or two after surgery, when motivation is high, portion control maximized, and weight loss rapid. It’s an exciting time and much time, energy and focus is put into a new lifestyle. As time goes on, new habits become more comfortable and efforts often shift to other aspects of living life. If care isn’t taken, sweets and processed food may slip back into the diet. Portions may slowly creep up and there is a tendency to slack off on the important behaviors of exercise, meal prep, and food tracking. It’s a natural part of the cycle. What are the keys to maintaining the right degree of balance–putting effort and energy into a lifestyle that supports a healthy weight, yet also leaving energy for other things?
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Keep an eye on the why. Maintaining a healthy weight has benefits. For some it is the reduction of medications and the resolution of health conditions. Others find the true benefit in an increase in energy, self-confidence and motivation. And some find greater life satisfaction with an increased ability to participate in activities and spend more quality time with family. Revisit your “whys” often. Write them out. Put them in a journal or post them on your bathroom mirror. When you keep the why’s in the front of your mind, you’ll be motivated to make hundreds of healthy little choices each day. It’s those little choices that add up to a healthier you.
Be real. You have a great tool with weight loss surgery, but even with that tool, you will need to work on your weight for the rest of your life. That means making healthy food choices, limiting portions, and moving more than others around you. Once you’ve accepted this reality, you can get down to work.
Have a top acceptable weight. Once you reach your personal goal weight, set an upper acceptable weight limit. Having this weight limit set frees you from fretting about small fluctuations in weight that regularly occur. If you do reach upper weight, it is a signal to pause and evaluate your eating and exercise behaviors. Think about what has recently changed. Did you have an injury that limited your movement? Has there been an abundance of stress in your life? Did you change jobs? Are you eating larger portions, sweets, or highly processed foods? Reach out to your support system and get back on track right away.
Keep tabs on behaviors and track progress. Weigh weekly. Use a smart scale that shows weight over time to remind you of how far you’ve come and alert you to getting off track. Keep a daily food log or check in once a week to stay aware of what you are really eating—put mindless munching out of business. Use a fitness tracker to monitor activity—studies show you’ll be more active. Combine all three and you can see the calorie and movement levels that keep your weight where you want it to be.
A goof-up is a goof-up. If you give into temptation, learn from the situation and move on. Could you have done something differently that would have kept you on your eating plan? If so, set up a strategy for next time–plan ahead, bring a no-added-sugar treat, have a protein snack in your bag, or prepare a “no thank you” statement in advance. A goof-up is not a reason to throw in the towel and continue down the path of poor choices. It is a signal to strengthen your strategy to deal with tempting situations in a healthy way.
Plan to succeed. Success does not simply happen; it takes hard work and pre-planning.
- Stock your home with healthy foods and eliminate unhealthy ones. Studies show that we eat what is in front of us. When you open your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards, what do you see?
- Start a binder with new healthy recipes to try. Try one each week or two. Soon you’ll have an arsenal of tried and true favorites to keep you and your family nourished. There are very few foods that cannot be made in a no-added-sugar, low fat way.
- Meal plan and food prep—you’ll eat a healthier diet.
- Take healthy snacks and meals with you when you are away from home. Think 100-calorie packs of nuts, jerky, or low sugar protein bars or a small cooler with yogurt, hard boiled eggs, light cheese, deli meat, cottage cheese, or peanut butter and an apple.
- Have a game plan when eating out. Look at the menu ahead of time and decide. Easy to be influenced by what others choose.
- Life gives us many reasons to celebrate. Find some new favorite sugar free treats to make celebrations special while sticking to your eating plan. Better yet, learn to celebrate in ways that don’t include food treats.
Learn and practice healthy coping strategies to weather life’s emotional highs and lows. You’ll encounter both daily stressors and big life events that tax your ability to respond in a healthy way. Building a tool box with strategies for these situations will allow you to live with more peace and rely less on unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Get an exercise routine in place. Exercise helps to reinforce good food choices. You feel better and are more likely to make healthy food choices. When combined with a healthy diet, a regular exercise program will enable you to lose excess body fat and build healthy, lean muscle.
Develop a better relationship with food by eating mindfully. Take time to enjoy each bite of food and appreciate the tastes and the nourishment it provides your body. Mindful eating is the practice eating slowly, savoring food with all of your senses, and making conscious choices. Studies show that mindful eating can help cultivate healthier eating habits.
Seek out support. Sticking with a healthy eating and exercise plan can be tough. Get with other like-minded individuals for mutual support. Share what is working and what isn’t working. You can inspire and be inspired by others.
Eat six small protein-rich meals and blood sugar levels with be maintained within a healthy range. Seek foods that satisfy: protein, fiber and healthy fats. Focus on whole foods, not processed foods. When you fuel your body with the right stuff, energy levels soar and it is easier to say no to temptations that come your way.
The bottom line. Following lifestyle habits that support a healthy weight over the long haul takes some serious work. There are many obstacles that come up over the years. By putting strategies in place, you’ll increase the odds of keeping the weight off and health conditions at bay.
Almond Pancakes with Banana Sauce
6 ounces vanilla Dannon Triple Zero yogurt
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar-free maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 cup sliced almonds
Mash the banana in a small bowl and mix in yogurt. Refrigerate until pancakes are done.
Stir together the flour, protein powder, baking powder, salt, egg, sugar-free maple syrup, and almond extract. Stir in the milk and oil. Add ¼ cup of sliced almonds and stir.
Spray griddle with cooking spray and preheat to medium. Pour batter out to make 12 pancakes.
Flip the pancakes when they begin to bubble and are golden brown on the bottom side. Cook until the other side is also golden brown.
Top pancakes with banana cream sauce and sprinkle with remaining sliced almonds. Makes 12 pancakes.
Nutrition information per pancake: 139 calories, 12 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrate, 219 mg sodium.
Lime Chicken on the Grill
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Splenda or stevia
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Blend soy sauce, sweetener, vegetable oil, lime juice, and garlic. Place chicken breast halves into a shallow dish and marinate in the mixture; turn to coat. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes—overnight is better.
Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Discard marinade, and grill chicken 6 to 8 minutes on each side, until juices run clear. Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition per serving: 166 calories, 25 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrate, 735 mg sodium.