7 Ways to Keep Going after You’ve Hit Your Weight-Loss Goal

triumphant woman after working outSo, you’ve done it. You’ve hit your big weight-loss goal. You’re sporting the jean size you wanted, you feel healthier and you’re proud of this huge accomplishment, as well you should be.

Now what?

When you’ve spent time and energy working toward a goal, it’s exhilarating to finally get there. But what happens next? How do you maintain everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve

We spoke to the experts with the Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center to find out what gets in the way of continued success–and how to avoid giving up when the success stops coming.

1. Don’t fall back into old habits.

“We warn people about the weight-loss curves and challenges they may experience, but until it hits, it’s hard to picture,” said Erin Spenner, MS, RD, LDN, dietitian with the Weight Loss & Wellness Center. “They can be doing well, but when they experience that first pound gain, it’s a shock to the system and they can fall back into old habits. They think ‘I’m a failure’ and comfort themselves in the ways they’re used to.”

Spenner stressed that habits are, hands down, the hardest change to make in the weight-loss process. She recommends evaluating the situation and asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why is that old habit detrimental?
  • What effect does it have?
  • When comparing the old and new habits, what’s different?
  • What works and what doesn’t?
  • What do you need to do to get back on track?

“Then, of course, journal it,” Spenner said. “Track your habits—old and new—until your healthy lifestyle gets back on track. Lasting change rarely comes from just changing one arbitrary thing. You have to know how it works to make it the most effective.”

2. Learn moderation.

For many, food is an addiction. That’s why the process of obesity recovery is similar to that of drug and alcohol, with one key difference.

“When it comes to food, there’s no such thing as abstinence,” Spenner said. “With alcohol and drugs, the treatment is to stop. You can’t stop eating; you have to find moderation.”

To find a middle ground between binging and starvation, Spenner recommends constant reevaluation of goals and needs, as well as food journaling to maintain accountability.

3. In the words of Richard Simmons, “it’s not a diet; it’s a live-it.”

It’s time to get out of the goal-oriented mindset and make it lifestyle.

“It feels like work because it’s different,” said Lindsay Roush, MA, LCPC, licensed clinical professional counselor with the Weight Loss & Wellness Center. “Our brains have a tendency to take the easy way out. So when the brain has established an automatic response to things, it can be hard to break.”

For that reason, Roush recommends making new habits. Don’t think about using food as a reward you can have when you deserve to, or exercise as a punishment for every overindulgence—make daily meal plans that are easy to follow, and incorporate activity into your daily life. Make health and wellness another part of your daily life—not just something you’re doing until you are allowed to stop.

4. Learn to accept compliments and attention, not to negate or reject.

For the newly thin or thinner, the sudden influx of attention and positivity can be overwhelming. Spenner and Roush recommend not dismissing compliments you may receive on your new appearance. You did the work—you earned them.

5. Stay involved with your healthcare team.

When you reach a goal, it’s easy to think “I’m done.” If you don’t continue to follow up with your healthcare team, you may be at risk for relapse and weight gain.

“We’re your support system, so use us,” Spenner said. “Patients may not think they need follow ups and don’t come for a two-, three- or four-year check up, but they’re always back at year five. Those who follow up regularly maintain weight loss better.”

6. If all else fails, get back to basics.

“When you experience negative results, go back to what worked before,” Roush said. “Journal your food intake, count calories, monitor your heart rate and follow the diet and exercise plans you used when you first started the journey. They worked before—they’ll work again.”

7. When the journey stops, you start to move backward.

“Recovery isn’t a place you get to,” Roush said. “There’s no end to this road. It’s lifelong.”

“You reached your goal. So now you make new goals,” Spenner said. “Decide, ‘OK, now I will eat more whole grains’, or make the commitment to do a 5K. You’ve got this new body—now make it do stuff!”