EXHAUSTED, RELIEVED, AND READY TO LOOSEN UP A BIT WITH YOUR EATING…THE FEELING YOU GET WHEN YOU’VE FINISHED YOUR DIET. ALTHOUGH THE URGE TO WANT TO LET GO OF THE EFFORT PUT FORTH THE PAST FEW MONTHS IS STRONG, ONLY ONE THING SHOULD CHANGE AFTER A DIET…NOTHING ELSE!

Weight loss doesn’t come without a lot of effort. From a mental standpoint, you must consistently remind yourself of “why” you’re not eating the office donuts and you must diligently decide what to order when you’re at the local pub for a work event. Physically, you need to dedicate time each week to planning meals and preparing food in bulk and advance, while also exercising regularly.

You’ve spent the last few months exerting great effort to further develop and fine-tune healthy eating habits that proved to be integral to your success. You now make time each weekend – and sometimes on Thursdays – to not only plan what you’ll be eating the next few days but also to shop for and prepare said meals to help you stay on plan. You ensure that your house, gym bag, office desk, and purse are always adequately stock with a snack or two – you never know when you’ll need a protein bar – and that you bring plenty of travel-friendly snacks with you when you’re out enjoying an eventful Saturday with the kids. And you’ve become a master at saying “no” and seeking out lean protein and vegetables when dining out.

What you don’t realize at the time, however, is that the behaviors and actions you’re engaging in regularly are invaluable, lifelong skills that should be forever implemented. These behaviors will prove to be integral throughout your life as you strive to maintain a healthy weight.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, most throw these behaviors out the window when finishing their diet. No wonder weight regain is so common! After you finish a dieting phase, only one thing should change the portions on your plate!

SUSTAINABLE, HEALTHY HABITS

The same habits that helped you achieve a lower, healthier weight are the same habits that will help you maintain it. You wouldn’t stop lifting weights after achieving your new muscle growth goal, would you? I sure hope not because if you did, you’d lose that muscle quickly. And if you stop your healthy eating and preparation habits, you’ll lose your progress – in this case, gain back the weight – quickly!

Too often, many “forget” what helped them attain their weight loss success and transformed the relationship with food as soon as they reach the end of their diet. Rather than continuing to prepare food in bulk, and in advance they instead revert to old habits that include skipping breakfast, snacking at the office, and relying on taking out and fast food restaurants to get by. (I have an entire chapter dedicated to the importance of this and simple strategies to streamline the process in my eBook, “A Dietitian’s Dozen Fat-Loss Tip”).

Why!?

Surely, the daily actions you took had some influence on your success. Why do you feel the need to forgo such actions as soon as you see the appropriate number on the scale or calendar?

Your meal preparation routine, diligent decision making, snack packing, and general food awareness should remain in place. These are the habits that helped you achieve your success to date – just because you’re no longer targeting weight loss doesn’t mean you should ditch them.

Sure, you may not have perfected these habits yet, but that’s okay. You’ve already conquered the toughest part of the developmental journey, which is navigating a stressful situation (dieting) while beginning to build these habits. Now that you’re no longer dieting, and physical and psychological stress are literally lowered, these actions should become easier and virtually second nature.

THREE STRATEGIES TO KEEP HEALTHY HABITS IN PLACE

  1. Make Meal Prep Sunday Real

Okay, it doesn’t have to be Sunday, but you need to continue to commit to preparing food in advance. This was the foundation of your success while dieting because it ensured that you had healthy food readily available, which meant you didn’t need to run to Taco Bell down the street, or head to the vending machine at the office each day at 3:00 p.m. Consider blocking out 60 – 90 minutes on your calendar, setting a reminder on your alarm, or leaving a note on your fridge. The more you’re reminded of it, the more your mind will dwell on how helpful the action has been in the past, and the more likely you are to get it done.

  1. Find an Accountability Buddy

Whether that’s your spouse, co-worker, family member, or friend, have someone that you can report to about completing healthy habit “X.” For instance, each weekend you can send a picture to your accountability buddy of your prepared food for the week. You can also send pictures of the healthy option you chose at your favorite restaurant in place of the greasy, high-fat option you would’ve chosen in the past. And of course, when the lighting is right, you can send the flexing selfie with the caption, “I’m not even dieting anymore and I’m still ripped!”

Having another person on your team will enhance motivation and accountability, and ultimately, what you’re striving for, which is action.

  1. Reflect on The Positives of your Actions

Every week, take 5 minutes to write down the benefits or positive experiences you had this past week related to your healthy habits. For example, it may be something like:

“Tuesday’s meeting ran through lunch, but I had a protein bar and bag of almonds in my bag. I ate that rather than waiting until after the meeting when I know I would’ve been likely to overindulge on the first piece of food I saw.”

And after you write these down, keep them somewhere close. As the number of benefits and positive experiences add up, you’ll have created an awesome motivational tool to refer to when you’re having a tough day, or questioning why you do all of this. It’ll happen – it happens to everyone – but you’ll be prepared and quickly reminded of the many benefits of your actions.

Transforming healthy eating behaviors into sustainable habits takes time and doesn’t come without challenge. Even though the number on the scale is no longer “rewarding” you for eating so well, many other positives are taking place as a result. Don’t lose sight of them and remember that after you finish a dieting phase and transition to a maintenance phase, the only factor that should change about your day is the portion size on your plate!