However, she quickly added, “Maintaining weight loss can get easier over time. Over time, less intentional effort, though not no effort, is needed to be successful. After about two years, healthy eating habits become part of the routine. Healthy choices become more automatic the longer people continue to make them. They feel weird when they don’t.”
On the other hand, perfection is not realistic and can be self-defeating, Dr. Phelan said. “Successful maintainers know there will be lapses. But they also know they can recover from lapses and how to get back on track. They accept slips and don’t engage in black-and-white thinking like ‘I was bad,’ an attitude that is self-defeating. Rather, they know there will be ups and downs, and they have a plan for coping with lapses that’s empowering.”
A personal example from one who lost a third of her body weight and kept it off for half a century: I anticipate and plan for the times when I expect to be confronted with culinary largess. I’m a little more abstemious beforehand, enjoy the indulgence and get back to normal the next day.
Rather than constant deprivation and self-denial, I practice moderation. The study’s co-author, Gary Foster, who is chief scientific officer for WW, explained that in the WW program, “Everything is on the menu. Fad diets are overly restrictive, which dooms them from the onset. We advocate moderation, we’re anti-dieting. People have to find habits and routines that make long-term weight loss sustainable.”
And as many of the successful weight maintainers in the study reported, time and practice have permanently modified what I find appealing, so I rarely feel deprived and have less need to exercise self-denial all the time. I do admit, though, that I’m less good at ignoring cravings than many in the new study are. I’m more likely to give in but control the amount I consume.
What I may be best at is monitoring my weight. I weigh myself every day and keep within a range of two or three pounds. Nearly all the successful maintainers in the study weigh themselves weekly or more often, which makes it easier to self-correct before the numbers on the scale rise significantly.
Dr. Foster said, “What’s on your mind is as important as what’s on your plate. Weight management is something you do for yourself because you’re valuable, you’re worth taking care of.”