Friday, February 23, 2018

In It for the Long-Term

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

Losing weight is only half the challenge. To maintain a healthy weight — now that takes guts …

Weight loss seems to beget weight loss when you’re on track, or treadmill, to those new jeans. (At least until you hit The Final 10 Pounds.) You do whatever it takes to shed the weight. You succeed. You feel like a new person. You look great.

Like a new hairstyle, the trend wears off and the shape goes with it. You start to develop a bed-making mentality: Why make the bed, if I’m only going to crawl back in it? Why bother to lose weight, if I’m only going to gain it back?

The reasons could be clear, but the strategy may need some fine-tuning. A health condition, an upcoming fancy event (formal ware isn’t usually easy on the physique), or general lack of energy and abundance of disgust are often the catalyst. We’re motivated with an initial shot of gusto. But, how can it last? Simply put, it usually cannot.

A New Strategy

Yo-yo dieting and failed efforts to keep off unwanted pounds signal a need to analyze your approach. Maintaining a healthy weight takes different tactics than the act of losing it. Researchers attribute three essential elements to maintaining the loss: a diet rich in low-fat protein; a clear understanding of why control is necessary; and a plentiful reward system to acknowledge all efforts at a healthy lifestyle. Along with that, you have to personalize your healthier lifestyle to be fun and practical.

Stop obsessing over the scale and focus on overall healthier living. The weight loss will follow. As a scale-watcher, numbers dictate success and often our response. However, body weight fluctuates throughout the day based on a variety of factors. Don’t allow scale drama. Say “no” to this manipulative relationship where moods are up and down with the numbers. Rather, find a favorite outfit. When it fits loosely, you’ve lost weight. When tight, go another round on the Exercise Floor.

With healthier living as the focus, life is more than cookies versus carrots. It encompasses increased activity, both exercise and functional; more fun; reduced stress; and operating in a general state of wellness where we persevere toward our best interest despite what the vending machine throws our way.

Kelly (before and after), a true winner.
Kelly (before and after), a true winner.

A sampling of the good life– a healthier one– often delivers rewards on its own that propel us forward.  Member Kelly Veith, winner of last year’s Biggest Winner contest can attest. ” I started slow. As my momentum picked-up,  I realized I just might win [the contest]. The weeks passed; I lost weight and felt better every day.” Excellent motivation to continue with such a lifestyle!

Kelly won the Biggest Winner contest in her age group, yet she insists she was a winner regardless.  “I was a winner because I was on the road to a healthier, leaner me!” When creating your reward system, take time to note the automatic “prizes” that result from your healthier ways– improved health, more energy, toned body, and a brighter smile.  Acknowledge these positive outcomes, in addition to enjoying any special treats.

Try a relaxing massage to soothe all the muscles you’re pushing further (or just discovering). Pamper yourself with a manicure. Nourish your mind with peaceful quiet time, a new hobby, or an interesting book. Be tender to your soul by inviting new friendships and rekindling old. These are all part of healthier living, and can do more for you sometimes than a few less pounds. Gradually, you’ll feel more fulfilled through life itself. The sweets won’t hold as much allure.

Commitment Is Unique

That which keeps one person on the treadmill and another on the couch is very individual. Personalization is the best way to continue making healthy choices. Experiment with options and only commit to what works for you. Another 2012 Biggest Winner contest winner, Gina Ruggiero, used the contest to find her niche. “I took so many new classes. I challenged myself with new instructors. I tried cycling, aquatics, combat, Pilates, and yoga– classes I never would have tried before,” Gina shares.

The exposure introduced new possibilities to Gina. The fierce competitor within was awoken. She participated in other contests, included a mini-triathlon. She discovered what worked for her and capitalized on it.

Gina, before.
Gina, before.

Gina lost 10 pounds through the contest. By one year later, she lost the final 10 pounds of her 50-pound weight loss goal. “More importantly, I can happily say I have been exercising for two years and I love it!” she emphasizes. Gina learned her trick to commitment– a little camaraderie and a lot of competition.

Gina, after discovering the fierce competitor within.
Gina, after discovering the fierce competitor within.

She still is going strong. However, this year, she participates in the Biggest Winner to help others win. She urges members, “If you see me around the Center, and you definitely will, ask me anything about winning. I’m here to help you be the winner you are!”  Her personal goal with the contest is to stay focused on fitness variety and healthful eating.

Although you may not share Gina’s competitive spirit, learn from her determination and be inspired by her enthusiasm. Perhaps you don’t enjoy competing against others. Instead, rally yourself to do better than yesterday. A healthy lifestyle is a journey to self-discovery on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. Experiment with fitness, food, and life.

Take what you love and make it yours. If you enjoy running, expand on it. If you like to dance, try a Zumba™ class. Don’t force spinach if you don’t like it. Find healthy foods you enjoy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle should not feel like a punishment. It should be filled with positive elements that come naturally to you.

Time is scarce. The only way to manage fitness and proper nutrition is to make it appealing enough to override daily obstacles. Admittedly, there will be days when even your most fun workout won’t be doable. Long-term allows for this.

Count Calories or Calories that Count?

Make calories count more than counting calories. Live by this tongue twister! Restrictive diets or methods that require careful calorie counting are not long-term compatible. They may help reach the weight loss, yet their strict requirements often make them a challenge to maintain.

weight loss tape, picIt goes back to the fun factor: How enjoyable is a lifestyle of continuous calorie counting and deprivation? For the answer, ask your friend who gained everything back and then some. Strict calorie counting is typically not sustainable, and for good reasons.

Focus on portion control and better food choices. Choose calories packed with nutrition so when you eat, you eat well. With the number game, a small candy bar may have less calories than a healthier choice, mistakenly reflecting the candy as a dieter’s better option. Numbers can be deceiving. Quality trumps all.

Eat a diet rich in fiber to feel full without packing on empty calories. Vegetable soup or salad is a healthy pre-meal habit. Start a meal with your digestive system already working on this fiber-filled appetizer. It can reduce calorie consumption by 10 percent. Minimize carbohydrate intake. Carbs metabolize as sugar, which leaves you hungry and without energy to do more than rip open a bag of junk food.

The American Dietetic Association recommends dairy products in a diet focused on weight management. The National Dairy Council suggests three daily servings  of low- or nonfat milk, cheese, or yogurt to help lose weight and burn calories. Often rich in calcium and vitamin D, such dairy is a positive supplement to any diet. Raise your milk to that!

Think Thin

Without realizing it, you’ll cross a threshold. You will automatically make smart choices and enjoy improved health. The habits became a lifestyle. That satisfaction goes well beyond a smaller-sized wardrobe. When living well, weight-watching may become a thing of the past. Your mindset shifts. You think healthy, act healthy– oh, and yes– your pant size follows suit.


“Make Weight Management a Lifetime Goal,” by Chris Iliades at 


Beach trail (introductory photo):

Tape measure with sweets: © Sherrie Smith at


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