Weight Maintenance: A Lifetime of Slimness (cont.)

Moores and Hill also say that it's important to:

  • Get in tune with yourself. "People who lose weight successfully and keep it off really know their bodies and are in tune with themselves," says Moores. "They know when they shouldn't be eating something, and when they've eaten too much. It's an inner ability to do it because it's important for you -- for your health, appearance, energy level, strength."
  • Find your balance. "Think energy balance -- keeping your weight off is matching your food intake to your energy expenditure," says Hill. "The more physical activity you do, the more you can eat. What we suggest is that you find an individual physical activity goal that allows you to maximize your physical activity in a way that's reasonable for your busy lifestyle."
  • Figure out what works for you. "For most people it is such an incredibly individual process and experience," says Moores. "[It takes] knowing and recognizing that one size doesn't fit everyone, and there will be peaks and valleys. This will help you along the way before, during, and after the diet."

The Success Story

That's what the professionals have to say, but what about someone who's been there?

That would be Carolyn Castel of Brookline, Mass., who weighed in at 185 at the end of her pregnancy in June 2002, at 5 feet tall. A year later, she still weighed 142.

"For five months I was on a hard-core diet, and I lost most of the weight at the beginning," says Castel. "Now, I weigh 118."

The bottom line, she says, is that maintenance takes even more work than weight loss.

"I think keeping it off is harder," says Castel. "I had such success losing the weight, that there may be more anxiety in keeping it off."

But Castel, who went from a size 12 to a size 6, has kept the weight off and feels confident that her success will be long-term.

Her secrets?

"Not overdoing it, and really thinking about what I want to eat," she says. "Perfect example: I stopped to get a cup of coffee the other day, and decided to get egg on a bagel -- and the bagel was huge. I took the top part off and ate only the bottom part.

"I wouldn't have done that before, but I asked myself if I really wanted all that, and I knew I didn't."

And while exercise wasn't a part of her game plan during the diet, it is now.

"Exercise didn't play a role in the weight loss, but now it really is an effort to tone, to help maintain, to lose a couple more pounds, and to help me have a cushion," says Castel.

As for those inevitable slipups, her advice is right in line with the experts' -- don't freak out.

"The weekends are the hardest -- I'm more tempted to cheat, so I might start Monday morning a pound or two higher than I want to be," says Castel. "You can't panic about it, though. You just pull back on what you eat for the next few days."

SOURCES: James O. Hill, PhD, director, Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado, Denver. Susan Moores, registered dietitian; spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association, Minneapolis. Carolyn Castel, Brookline, Mass.

Originally published May 06, 2004
Medically updated March 25, 2005

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