8 Keys to Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight

1. Don’t Rely on Magic
No matter how much we would like it to be true, there’s no magic way to achieve a healthy body weight. Many of the “magic” approaches – pills, potions and powders – can lead to significant weight loss for a short period. But the vast majority of people who lose weight using these approaches regain the weight within a couple of years. There is no six-day, six-week, or six-month program that will get you to a healthy weight and keep you there. It’s what you do from now on, for the rest of your life, that will determine your ability to stay at a healthy weight.

2. Forget the “One-Size-Fits-All” Mentality
As a society, we’ve created the impression that all of us need to be at a weight that makes us look like the models, both men and women, who endlessly appear before us in advertising, sports and entertainment. The message is: the thinner the better. If you can only look like a model, your life will be so much happier. The truth is, we’re all very different. Some things, like body weight, are influenced by factors that we can’t control – our genetics, for example. Two people can live very similar lifestyles, yet one will be thinner than the other. It isn’t fair, and it can be frustrating.

Number of Fat Cells: The number of fat cells in your body strongly influences your body weight. Some people naturally have more fat cells than others. And if you gain a lot of extra pounds – say, 40, 50 or more above your healthy weight – you can make billions of new fat cells that never go away.

Your Metabolism: Resting metabolic rate is the number of calories you burn each day just through the essential processes – heart beating, breathing, thinking and so on. Some people simply have a higher resting metabolic rate than others. So they burn more calories every day – and it doesn’t have anything to do with exercise.

3. Develop a Positive Self-Image
“Accept yourself for who you are.” How many times have you heard that? Yet accepting yourself can be a very difficult task, especially if you have been getting other messages for years.

Weight management has often been promoted as a process of learning to change the things you dislike about yourself. This attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – it makes you focus on disliking yourself. Effective weight management is just the extension of your desire to be as good to yourself as possible because you care about yourself and want to take responsibility for your health. Don’t get trapped in the rut of “If…, then…” thinking: “If I fit into those jeans from three years ago, then I’ll go out and dance the way I used to.” Instead, practice acting “as if”. Acting “as if” you are a person with a great capacity to nurture and care for yourself may well be the first step to becoming that person.

4. Set Realistic Weight Goals
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is important for good health. But a healthy weight isn’t necessarily the one that’s suggested by a height/weight chart. Your healthy weight is what you weigh when you’ve empowered yourself to take care of your body through adequate activity and sensible eating. There are many techniques for estimating a healthy weight. One of the easiest is to shoot for the lowest weight you’ve been able to maintain for a least one full year since age 21, when you were active and eating a prudent diet. Keep these thoughts in mind:

You might be at your healthy weight right now!
You should focus on taking care of yourself today, not achieving some future weight goal.
There’s no rush. Maximum effective weight loss is about one pound a week.

5. Learn to Play Again
The key to burning fat is burning calories. And the only way to significantly increase your body’s caloric expenditure is to increase your level of activity. Unfortunately, we’ve forgotten what most children know – that exercise is fun! And we have forgotten that exercise is an act of caring and self-respect, not work or punishment. Regular exercise is one of the few proven predictors of successful weight maintenance. Even more important, regular activity significantly reduces a long list of health risks, ranging from cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure to breast cancer. Those are great reasons to rediscover the joys of play!

6. Get Stronger
“Lift weights? Me? Never!” If this was your initial reaction, think again. Research has shown that resistance training – whether with weights, machines, elastic bands or tubing, even in water – does more than help with weight control. It’s also one of the best ways to maintain good posture and reduce the risk of diseases such as osteoporosis. And most people, both men and women, will not develop big muscles unless they work very hard at it. The good news is, working your major muscle groups against resistance just twice a week will bring you a long list of benefits. You can perform strength exercises either at home or in a fitness center. For weight control, the benefit is that muscles burn calories even when they are at rest. It’s important to practice good technique with each strength training exercise. Consider working with a qualified trainer, such as an IDEA Master Member personal trainer, at least a few times before you try it on your own.

7. Harness the Power of the Pyramid
Some weight control programs focus on what you eat instead of emphasizing exercise and active living. The problem with this approach is, people have a tendency to look at eating with a rigid, always/never perspective. And that doesn’t work for very long for most people. Instead, try the 80/20 approach. Eat what you know you should 80% of the time, and leave 20% for acknowledging and accepting that you’re not perfect! That way, you won’t set yourself up for feeling guilty or bravely trying to resist your cravings for foods you know you don’t need much of. Using recommendations illustrated in the Food Guide Pyramid will help you nourish your body in a healthy way.

8. Be Patient and Persistent
Being patient and persistent doesn’t mean waiting for something to happen that will get you to a healthy body weight. It means planning and choosing attitudes that demonstrate self-acceptance and self-care. It takes practice. Most experts recommend that you keep some kind of record of your exercise, eating and self-care habits. They don’t have to be detailed or complicated. Just take a few minutes each day to note what activities you did to take care of yourself. Don’t be in a rush. Most health professionals will tell you it takes at least six months for a new habit to become part of your lifestyle. And it takes small steps. That’s how most things happen…in real life.

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