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7 Ways to Help Keep the Pounds Off

Whether we’re celebrating reaching a weight loss milestone or starting over after a setback, these tips can help us avoid the dreaded yo-yo effect.

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Mengxin Li
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Hello, friend,

Recently, I opened my mail and found one of those little silver-tone charms that WW (formerly Weight Watchers) sends you for losing the first 5 pounds on the plan. Problem was, I had gained them back. Ouch.

We know it doesn’t take much for a successful weight loss streak to stall and become a setback. All it really takes is a disruption in routine: Travel away from the healthy habits we’ve created at home. A stop-everything-and-buckle-down project at work. An upsetting experience and a funky mood that only pasta Alfredo seems to fix. An injury that interferes with our regular walking routine. (I’m looking at you, bum knee!)

So if you’re motivated, like I am, to get off this darn roller coaster, check out these “keep it off” tips based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Keep your doctor in the loop as you figure out your personal plan.

  1. Think “nutrition” and not “diet.” Studies of people who maintained their weight loss for a year show that they didn’t go back to the eating habits they’d had before counting calories. Consider a healthy and realistic eating pattern as your new normal, says the CDC.
  2. Plan ahead for changes in routine, whether they are weekends, vacations, special occasions or unexpected events. On family road trips, I’m the one who has memorized everyone’s Subway order and who calls in the takeout order at Bonefish Grill. Focusing on everyone else’s food intake makes it harder to limit mine. I’ve ordered a cooler on wheels for next time.
  3. One word: breakfast. Enjoying a healthy morning meal can help you lose weight. Skipping breakfast sets us up for becoming overhungry and grabbing whatever later in the day. Yes, I know that some of us are on team breakfast and some of us are on team fasting. As one part of a comprehensive doctor-supervised program, morning fasts may be effective for adherents who intentionally pass up the coffee and avocado toast. But doing so because we’re not hungry or because we’re pressed for time isn’t planning — it’s procrastinating. Want a tip from AARP’s own Whole Body Reset plan? A protein-packed breakfast smoothie will fit your schedule and your car’s cupholder.
  4. Stack activity minutes. Folks who lose weight and keep it off tend to engage in moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, and for between 60 and 90 minutes daily. But that could mean a 20-minute walk after each meal rather than one long sweat session. It could also mean something like a yoga flow in the morning, a walk after lunch and vacuuming in the evening. I like to track my visits to Costco as exercise minutes because of walking, lifting those heavy boxes and pushing that loaded cart to that waaay far parking space.
  5. Track energy in, energy out — and positive or negative energy. Using a tracker for what we eat and how we move helps us recognize what makes a difference when progress happens steadily and what causes us to trip up when it doesn’t. But the real secret here is also to make notes about circumstances, moods or behaviors that shaped the day. Did having your car in the shop cause you to miss Zumba? Did that hour you lost while troubleshooting a tech problem with the IT person at work make you so frustrated that you Ctrl+Alt+Deleted your plans for a salad and reached for a burger instead? Did sharing a shot of your healthy dinner on your girlfriends group text lead to encouraging messages that gave you a boost?
  6. Stay friends with the scale. Accountability for the win.
  7. Share the journey. Some weight loss “winners” sync their fitness trackers with a friend. Others attend in-person program meetings or share their trials and triumphs via the community feature on an app or in a group chat. The point is, partners can help us stay motivated.