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This post is in honor of National Nutrition Month, specifically why nutrition is so important to weight loss and weight loss maintenance.

When I see all those before and after pictures on websites and Instagram, I’m often skeptical.

Why?

Because anyone can lose weight. But not everyone can keep it off once they’ve lost it.

Have you heard of the yo-yo effect? It’s the tendency of dieters to lose weight and gain it all back, and oftentimes more. Only to repeat that dreaded cycle over again.

That’s one reason (among many) why before and after pictures mean nothing to me.

And unfortunately it’s our society’s obsession with instant gratification that leads to quick fixes, crazy diets, and drastic measures in an effort to lose weight fast.

Diets and quick fixes work. But they won’t keep the weight off.

Those approaches may result in rapid weight loss, but more often than not, they don’t address the underlying issues. They’re also not sustainable. And they oftentimes don’t show a positive shift in body composition, meaning a better ratio of lean to fat mass.

So the weight comes back on faster than it fell off. And frequently more of it. Then it’s back to the deprivation diet, pain and struggle, and yo-yo effect again.

To maintain weight loss, don’t follow a crazy restrictive diet, don’t look for a quick fix, don’t rely on laxatives, and don’t expect it to happen effortlessly overnight. Because getting rid of excess weight (though, truly, excess fat) and maintaining that leanness, requires effort. Don’t let anyone fool you.

So, if you want to not only lose weight but also keep it off, consider these factors:

  • Cook at homeSustainable approach to nutrition – In weight loss and weight loss maintenance, choosing an eating plan that you can follow long-term is a must. Choose something nutrient-dense, rich in natural colors, with wide variety, balanced in macro nutrients, low in processed food, low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and ideally cooked at home. It should be a way of eating that includes foods and drinks you like, that give you energy, make you feel good, help you sleep well, and that you would be happy to eat for the rest of your life. With restrictive diets, you don’t learn what it means to eat normal, so after the weight has come off, you go back to your old way of eating and the weight comes back.
  • Habits – Habits are of utmost importance when it comes to maintaining a lower weight (particularly if yo-yoing has been a problem in the past). Habits affect everything from food choices, to whether you eat out frequently, if you have dessert after every meal, if you snack between meals, if you cope with stress by eating, if you get to bed early enough for sufficient sleep, whether you maintain an exercise routine when things are busy, and on and on. By taking a slower, more sustainable approach to losing the weight, the healthy habits have time to solidify. With rapid diets and quick fixes, the good habits aren’t created.
  • Emotional wellbeing – For many people, it was some inability to process emotions that led to weight gain in the first place (perhaps by overeating). And frequently, it’s unresolved feelings and emotions that lead to crash dieting and the yo-yo effect. The slow, sustainable approach to weight loss oftentimes parallels growing confidence, better handling of emotions, improved methods to cope with stress, and overall greater emotional wellbeing. Whether these happen before and contribute to weight loss or happen in tandem with it, they are essential to maintaining a new lower weight. With rapid, restrictive, willpower-induced weight loss, emotional wellbeing as well as the mind-body connection are shutout.

To get off the diet roller coaster, skip the crazy diets and quick fixes. Think about taking a sustainable, holistic approach to dropping the pounds (in particular the fat pounds). Build good habits, get accustomed to a healthier style of eating, and learn to recognize and respond to emotions appropriately in order to establish the foundation for effortless weight loss maintenance for the rest of your life.

As for those pictures on weight loss websites and Instagram, I’d much rather see someone’s before, after, and current picture, ideally, 18 months (or more) since their ‘after’ photo. Then I’d be a believer.

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