Unfortunately in our society we have the mistaken belief that excess weight is something we fix with a “diet” and then we are done. Most people are prepared for the weight loss phase of managing their weight; however, excess weight is a chronic condition that requires lifelong management. With this misplaced societal view of excess weight, most people are not prepared for the life long and daily changes required to maintain their weight loss. Participants in our program are encouraged to come to terms with the fact that they have a chronic health condition, that must be managed for the rest of their lives. The majority of our year-long program is also focused on weight maintenance and not just weight loss.
We would not consider it appropriate to treat other chronic conditions with a single (or short) intervention. We don’t expect to treat diabetes once (or for some short period of time) and then never again. Weight loss is only stage one in managing excess weight. There is no “cure” for excess weight. As soon as you stop "treating" excess weight the weight will return. Thus, one of the main challenges in weight maintenance is keeping up your motivation to stick with healthy habits for the long term.
There are no simple solutions to long term weight maintenance. Healthy habits will always require more effort than unhealthy habits. No matter how long you do it, it will always require more effort to pack your lunch for work than to eat something in the cafeteria or get something through the drive through. You may be able to incorporate healthy habits into your daily routine so they don’t seem to take up as much effort but healthy habits will always require more effort.
In order to maintain your motivation over time, it is important to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Prior to weight loss, the “cons” of being overweight (e.g., loss of mobility, poor self-esteem, health problems) often outweigh the “pros” of eating an unhealthy diet (e.g., easy, tastes good). Once you have lost weight you need to remake that list. What are the “cons” of engaging in a healthy lifestyle (e.g., takes more time) and the “pros” of engaging in a healthy lifestyle (e.g., my clothes look better, I feel better about myself, I don’t have to take diabetes medicine). Remind yourself often of the reasons why you are choosing the healthier, but harder lifestyle choices. Healthy habits do require more effort but they also get you a much bigger payoff.