This is the million dollar question — once weight is lost, how does one keep it off?
As a nation of yo-yo dieters, no price is too high to keep extra weight off forever. The industry would have us believe that the solution is in the next book, superfood, pill, or diet plan. Their livelihood depends on you believing you need something outside yourself – some magic potion or wise words – to keep the weight off for good.
The reality is this — the answer, in most cases, cannot be purchased. Put your checkbooks away.
Keeping weight off forever involves change between your ears, not change in your purse.
Susan Kayman and her cohorts set out to investigate the difference between formerly-obese women who relapsed and those who maintained their weight loss. The results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Those who maintained their weight loss had mad skills. Not calorie counting skills, or kung-fu skills, but mad stress-coping skills.
Most people who are overweight have an unhealthy relationship with food. Food is one of the ways we can numb out, tune out, suppress rage and pain and console ourselves. For some of us, it was a behavior learned as a child when we had no power and no modeling of appropriate coping skills. As adults, it’s the easy way out. It’s legal, socially acceptable, easy to hide and even when we find out it no longer works we still don’t have a replacement. Food is always there, and goodness knows we are always being encouraged to partake.
In the study, those who maintained their weight responded to stress differently than those who relapsed and gained the weight back. Relapsers lacked skills to cope with their stress and were more likely to use avoidance or escape techniques to numb out. 90% would not directly confront their problems, and 70% ended up unconsciously consuming food to deal with their emotions. They were also less likely to exercise and seek outside support.
The maintainers had developed a different approach. A whopping 95% of maintainers confronted problems directly rather than avoiding them. They also utilized external support, remained conscious of their behaviors and developed their own strategies for dealing with stressors. No big surprise, most were also exercising. Their coping strategies were similar to the control group of women who had never been obese and included relaxation techniques, exercise, seeking professional help, social support or talking about their feelings with trusted friends.
You can be your most powerful advocate or you can be your own Judas. Everyone experiences challenges and stresses and everyone needs support and encouragement from time to time. When you hold your tongue, bury your opinion, and play nice you deny your very self. You say, “I don’t matter,” “I’m not important,” and “I am invisible.” The pain of silencing yourself can be suppressed, for a short time, with some Ben and Jerry’s or pretzels or wine. But it won’t go away completely until you reverse your silence, speak your voice, and make your Self known. It is a fundamental human desire to be known and acknowledged.
If weight is one of your struggles, I’d like you to focus this week on utilizing your voice. Speak up! It doesn’t have to be about the huge issues you have been stuffing down for years. It can be as simple as expressing where YOU want to have for dinner, asking a friend or coworker to go for a walk with you, saying no to a second helping of potato salad, or taking initiative with a problem you have been avoiding. Brainstorm solutions to stressors in your life rather than commiserating with those who just like to complain.
Be a bad girl, I dare you! Stop playing nice when it makes you feel anything less than sheer joy. Say no to those who step over you, share a controversial opinion to raise a few brows, and shock people around you by being direct. Share the feelings you have that you are most unlikely to share with a dear, trusted friend.
See what happens. Play with it. You can always change your mind later.