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Losing Weight and Keeping It Off

By Stephen Gullo, Ph.D.


Read Dr. Stephen Gullo's Transcript

Excerpt from The Thin Commandments Diet: The 10 No-Fail Strategies for Permanent Weight Loss

The Three Most Critical Points in a Diet Plan

In working with my clients, I've found three stages 'in the process of weight control that pose the greatest risk of derailing a weight program and undermining a new eating lifestyle. Navigating through these challenges is the path to truly mastering your control with food.

At the beginning. The motivation to start dieting often begins with a desire to look better, to fit into your clothes, to feel better about yourself, and to improve your health -- and it often means experiencing strong, very negative feelings. You may feel disgusted with yourself for your lack of control, or hate to look at yourself in the mirror, or dread opening your closet in the morning because you have nothing to wear that will make you feel good about yourself. Although this is the stage that propels many overweight people into treatment, it can also become a black hole, in which motivation to change is overwhelmed by a sense of futility and self-loathing. This is why it's so important to get started with a belief in yourself and your own ability to succeed again. I frequently remind my clients that it's just a piece of food against them. Food has no life smarts or strategy -- It has no I.Q. You have every advantage when you know yourself, your history, and how to approach food situations.

At the midpoint. There's a natural tendency to become less careful when you've started to succeed. Most people on a weight program start to see significant changes in 10 to 30 days. You don't even need to get to the end, to your ideal weight, to see the reward. Your clothes are looser, you're getting compliments, you're happier with yourself, your pain has gone away, and suddenly, you're sliding into old patterns, sabotaging yourself. You may believe that because you've lost a few pounds, you've lost your control problems with certain foods. You may forget that just because the pounds come off, it doesn't mean your history, your taste buds, or your vulnerability to your trigger or problematic foods has changed. Perhaps you're telling yourself that you can handle "just a little." You're feeling a lot less urgency to watch yourself with quantities, to plan ahead, to shop carefully. You become complacent -- and complacency is the enemy of thin. Fortunately, there are strategies to save you.

At the end. Success is yours! You've reached your personal best. Every time you look in the mirror, you feel a thrill of pleasure and a sense of pride. The intense satisfaction of achieving your treasured goal convinces you that you'll never go back to your old ways again. Your motivation and commitment are high -- for a while. But soon, the honeymoon is over, and you've got to get down to the business of living trim. Maintenance is the most high-risk period of any weight-control effort. Lots of people succeed with dieting -- they get an A for dieting every time they stay the course -- and then they flunk maintenance. The cause, of course, is usually a lapse in the strategies that are designed not only to carry you through but to help you realize that just because you've lost the weight, you haven't lost the problem.

Many people think about achieving their weight goal in the same way they think about achieving a high school diploma -- you get it once and then you can take it for granted for the rest of your life. But food control is an ongoing, dynamic process. And to make the transition from dieting to lifestyle mode requires changing your thinking and staying with the strategies, which will give you the tools for life, to maintain a lifetime of trim.

Tips for Keeping the Weight Off

Here are 9 critical behaviors and 1 additional shift in thinking that make up the 10 most important things to do on maintenance. The first 4 behaviors characterize all my winners. The 6 additional behaviors describe most of my clients. And while I believe that all 10 are important, the first 4 are critical for success.

SPECIAL ALERT: The single most important thing you can do to keep weight off for a lifetime is so important I've changed the format of the text to indelibly etch it into your psyche.

Wear form-fitting or tight clothes! When you reach maintenance, you should have one size, and one size only, of clothing. I've found that nothing sounds the warning siren faster or motivates people to act with greater haste than when their clothing gets too tight!

Think about what motivated you to start your diet. If you're like many of my clients, you were uncomfortable with your clothing (or you couldn't fit into it) and appearance. When you have a little extra trouble buttoning a pair of jeans or find it necessary to add an extra notch to your belt, it reawakens the original motivation. When you have only one size, you have no choice but to stay trim. If you save larger sizes, you are making it easy -- too easy -- to just switch to a larger size instead of acting to correct any errors.

Also, if you don't plan to be heavy again, why save the larger sizes? When you reach maintenance, throw out the larger sizes -- immediately!

Knowing that you have only one size of clothing adds another powerful incentive to maintain your weight: economics! How many of us can afford to buy a whole new wardrobe especially one in a larger size? Your wallet gives you extra incentive to guard your weight loss.

Before people ever respond to the clarion call to health, they listen to the cry of their clothing getting too tight. I'd have a nearly empty office if I tried to motivate people to stay on maintenance on the basis of health alone.

Your wardrobe is the most powerful deterrent I know of against sliding once more into out-of-control eating. It signals your commitment never to be heavy again. That's why I insist that all maintenance clients discard all clothes that no longer fit, with one exception: I ask them to save the outfit that's their largest size (preferably one they disliked ever having to wear) as an eternal reminder.

Keep problem foods you have a history of abusing out of your home. Almost all the women and a very large percentage of the men I have worked with who regained weight started the slide in their own homes. The slide often began with a food they had a history of abusing but had avoided while they were losing weight.

Remember the study by researchers at the National Weight Control Registry that found that two out of three people who lose weight and keep it off keep problem foods out of their house? Although that food might not tempt you at this moment, I can't urge you strongly enough to remove it from your home or at least keep it permanently out of your sight. Remember, you're always vulnerable to the foods that have tripped you up in the past -- even on maintenance. Eventually, people tend to return to their old favorites if they are continually available. On maintenance, even more than weight loss, availability stimulates craving -- even if it doesn't happen immediately. Along with keeping only one size of clothes in your house, it's critically important to keep problem foods out of your home.

Set a weight ceiling, and defend it. Pick a number -- typically about 3 pounds for women, 5 pounds for men -- and don't let your weight go above it -- ever. No matter what happens, don't let yourself off the hook. Draw a line in the sand. When the weight is back down, you can return to maintenance eating. Most of my clients expect increases in weight on weekends because of higher-calorie maintenance meals at home and out. Monday is typically the "high number" day of the week, but by Friday, they bring the weight back down to their goal weight, via Phase A and B eating.

Weigh yourself every day. Your bathroom scale can't weigh your behavior. However, it will tell you when you gain a pound or two. If you step on the scale the morning after a big meal at a restaurant or special event, your weight could be up. Don't be alarmed. If it's water weight, it will dissipate in 24 to 48 hours. You should expect slight variations during the week, especially after maintenance meals.

If it's real weight (3 or more pounds that remain over a period of several weeks), that should be a warning to you to take immediate action.

If you find it a bit maddening to follow the daily fluctuations of the scale even though you are eating properly, pick three days of the week on which you will always weigh yourself (for example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).

Exercise! It gives you structure and control. It gets you thinking about calorie burn and health consciousness and directs you away from obsessing about food. It's been shown that dieters who exercise regularly succeed the longest at keeping weight off. A study of more than 32,000 dieters by Consumer Reports magazine found that "regular exercise was the number one successful weight-loss maintenance strategy" of more than 81 percent of the long-term maintainers. In second place, at 74 percent, was the related strategy of increasing activity in daily routines. Also, as your body becomes lighter, it burns fewer calories. Exercise helps expand your calorie budget by burning the higher-caloric foods of maintenance.

And remember: Exercise generates endorphins, increases energy, and elevates mood.

Exercise provides you with a healthy outlet for stress. These effects help you follow through on your commitments, especially to control your weight. And as an outlet for stress, exercise shortcuts mood eating. It's the perfect alternative to keep your moods out of your foods.

Keep a photo of yourself at your heaviest weight. For added emphasis, place it next to a picture at your lightest weight. Many of my clients put the photo in a place where they feel most vulnerable -- the refrigerator door or kitchen counter, for example. Others elect to carry the photo in their wallet or purse.

Some of you may find it upsetting to stare constantly at a picture of yourself at your heaviest weight. Instead, carry a picture of what you look like at your lightest weight. You may find it motivates you even more to protect your accomplishments.

When it comes to weight control, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.

Keep a food diary. I'd like you to keep a diary for at least the first 90 days on maintenance. I ask my own clients to keep a diary for a full year. I want them to be certain they can manage the entire cycle of the year, with its holidays, vacations, special events, birthdays, summer versus winter eating, and so on. Since the same events and seasons come up year after year, once you get through the first year, you should be well prepared for the coming ones. After the first year, I frequently ask some clients to continue to keep a food diary or to keep a record of any "error" such as eating problem foods or excessive quantities of caloric foods.

A diary will serve as a daily reminder of the extras and/or negative eating habits. Writing out your meals and snacks a day in advance will help structure your thinking and help you steer clear of potential trip-ups.

Give yourself clear boundaries. Boundaries are a strong structure for your eating behavior. A major study of the winners found that 88 percent limited some type or classes of food. Another 45 percent limited the quantities of the foods they ate. Remember, if you don't have a good history of limiting a particular food, avoid it.

I help my clients establish clear boundaries and control their calorie budget with the lighter menus of Phases A and B of my eating plan from Monday through Friday, saving their maintenance meals or higher-calorie foods for weekends and special events. This clear boundary helps build an infrastructure of positive behaviors and smart eating habits that becomes automatic after a few weeks.

Most of my winners reinforce their boundaries with the techniques of Box It In and Box It Out. Many decide to Box Out a certain category or type of food. For some, it's baked goods, especially breadbaskets. Others avoid sweet baked goods (but may indulge in another type of sweet, such as a chocolate mousse). I want to emphasize again: They don't do this to make their lives difficult or to deprive themselves of something they want. They do it to make it easier to succeed at weight control -- which is something they want more.

Go beyond the food reward system. My winners enjoy the pleasure of fine food. Many of them dine regularly at fine restaurants. However, they've evolved beyond the childhood programming that views food as a reward or a treat.

They understand that no matter how beautiful a food looks or how enticing its aroma, if it's a food they have a history of abusing, it's no reward at all.

Some of my clients reward themselves with new clothes. Others enjoy a trip to a spa, a new necklace, or a weekend getaway with friends.

These are material rewards. A far more meaningful reward occurs each morning when they look in the mirror and see a trim body. There's no greater reward you can give yourself than to live the vision you have for your own life.

Dr. Stephen Gullo received his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University, and for more than a decade, he was a professor and researcher at Columbia University Medical Center. He is the former chair of the National Obesity and Weight Control Education Program of the American Institute for Life-Threatening Illness at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. His first book, Thin Tastes Better, was a national bestseller. He has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and Barbara Walters and has also made numerous appearances on Today, Good Morning America, and Hard Copy. Dr. Gullo is currently president of the Institute for Health and Weight Sciences' Center for Healthful Living in New York City. He resides in New York City and the U.S. Virgin Islands. When additional products and services become available, Dr. Gullos hotline, 888-DIET-911, will become activated.

Read Dr. Stephen Gullo's Transcript

Reprinted from: The Thin Commandments Diet: The 10 No-Fail Strategies for Permanent Weight Loss by Stephen Gullo, Ph.D. © 2005 by Dietech Co. Permission granted by FSB Associates.


Additional recommended reading:
Quit Digging Your Grave With A Knife And Fork

Power Surge Weight Experts...

Check the Power Surge Web Site's Library for transcripts of guest chats with experts in the area of weight loss and management. These guests have been part of Power Surge's, My Menopause, My Sexual Self Series. Every author is listed in the Library alphabetically.

If you click on the expert's name below, it will take you to one of their transcripts.

Robert Atkins, M.D., cardiologist, nutritionist and author of the famous, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution.

Dr. Howard Shapiro,, author of the book, Dr. Shapiro's Picture Perfect Weight Loss : The Visual Program for Permanent Weight Loss.

Dr. Denise Lamothe, author of "The Taming of the Chew: A Holistic Guide to Stopping Compulsive Eating. " Dr. Lamothe is Power Surge's Weight Disorders Expert.

Debra Waterhouse, author of Outsmarting The Midlife Fat Cell: The First Weight-Control Program Designed Specifically for Women.

John McDougall, M.D.,, author of numerous books including The McDougall Plan, and The McDougall Program for Women.

Barry Simon, M.D., psychiatrist specializing in weight issues and author of the book, Break The Weight Loss Barrier.

Covert Bailey, well known for his "fit or fat" program featured in a PBS series. His numerous books include, Fit or Fat.

Michael Fumento, the author of "The Fat of the Land: Our Health Crisis and How Overweight Americans Can Help Themselves "

Michael Friedman, Weight Watchers Leader. You can also read many of his archived answers to many weight questions here.

Julia Griggs Havey, the author of "Awaken the Diet Within: From Overweight to Looking Great-If I Can Do It, So Can You"

 

        

 

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