Dublin parents-of-two Rob Cullen and wife Yvonne, lost (and have kept off) 13 stone between them. Rob says it’s because they stay focused on why they want to maintain a healthy weight. “For us it’s about remembering why we started in the first place and that was for our two boys.”
oth felt unhappy with their weight and how it was making them feel – lethargic and depleted. They decided to make a change, embracing home cooking and cutting out takeaways and alcohol.
The couple say they feel more energised, their taste buds have changed, they have fewer aches and pains, less bloating and even Rob’s snoring has stopped.
Rob’s confident his and Yvonne’s approach (which they write about at robandyvonne.ie) is sustainable.
What helps is being mindful of what they eat and watching portion sizes, making healthy choices but still allowing for occasional treats and staying focused on their common goal of remaining fit and healthy for their two sons, Liam (8) and Tommy (13).
Rob and Yvonne along with a panel of experts explain the habits you need in order to keep the weight off.
1. Have a (non-scales related) long-term goal
Many of us fall into the trap of losing weight to reach a magic number, fit in an outfit or go on holiday. But these short-term goals won’t sustain long-term commitment – this requires a deeper, values-driven motive.
Psychologist Susannah Healy, author of Fabulous Jelly: Use Your Brain to Lose Weight and The Seven Day Soul, explains:
“We are naturally more inclined to give our effort and attention to things that are meaningful… if the weight loss was just to fit into an outfit at a wedding, then the goal was not hugely meaningful and the motivation is unlikely to last.”
2. Sleep (for about eight hours)
Several scientific studies have suggested a strong correlation between getting a good night’s sleep and weight management. One study reported that older adults who slept less than five hours, compared with seven to eight hours, increased their risk of obesity by 40%.
3. Find an exercise you love and do it regularly
You might have been able to force yourself through an intense workout regime to lose weight, but exercise will not become a long-term habit if it’s not something you enjoy.
4. Address your headspace
Weight management is about so much more than calories in and out. So many people who reach a weight they are happy with talk about the importance of self-love, of being able to look in the mirror and accept yourself.
5. Monitor your progress
That doesn’t have to mean stepping on the scales every day, it could mean noticing when a pair of trousers starts to feel a little snug, feeling more breathless doing an activity you previously could do with ease. Be attuned to your body and act fast if you see changes.
6. Eat enough fibre
“We know that the better your fibre intake, the lower your sugar intake,” explains dietitian Aveen Bannon.
“Fibre slows down the speed at which food passes through digestion and makes you feel fuller for longer. The best sources are fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and pulses.”
7. Get support
The people you have around you have a big role to play in the success of weight management. “Have a friend, a class, a dietitian,” says dietitian Sarah Keogh. “It takes quite a while to really bed down new habits so having someone you can check in with regularly is important, not necessarily for a weigh-in, although that can help for some.”
8. Eat mindfully
Ever sat down to watch TV only to look down and realise you’ve shovelled a family-size bag of crisps into you without even noticing? If you want to try and stop your waistband expanding, register what you’re eating. “Eat slowly and notice when you feel full, don’t just automatically clear your plate,” recommends Keogh.
9. Make a food plan
Planning ahead is pro-active and will give you control in choosing what you eat. “I dedicate a lot of time to meal planning on my courses because I truly believe that planning and organisation is what holds so many of us back from achieving our health goals,” says Elsa Jones, a nutritional consultant who runs free online weight management workshops.
10. Be able to draw a line under something
“One of the most common mindset traps I see people fall into is ‘all or nothing’ thinking,” reveals Jones.
“This is when you tell yourself you’ve blown it by eating one biscuit, so you may as well eat the whole packet and start fresh tomorrow. The best way to counteract this is to ditch the whole notion of being on a diet. If you’re not on a diet then you can’t blow your diet. Instead just focus on what you can do today to bring you closer to your goal.”
11. Keep an eye on your proportions
Portion size is important, but a long-term, sustainable, balanced diet also revolves around having the right balance of nutrients on your plate – one quarter protein (chicken, fish, beans) one quarter complex carbs (sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa) and the rest veggies.
12. Drink water
Being even a little dehydrated can cause your metabolism to drop and work less effectively. Most of us don’t drink enough water and often confuse thirst with hunger, reaching for a snack when we should be turning on the tap.
13. Remember how far you’ve come
You might have thrown out all your old clothes and not want to look at old photos, but they can be motivating.
14. Accept there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach
Maintaining a weight you’re happy with is about doing what works for you. Some swear by keeping an eye on the scales, others rely on how they feel – the most successful means of maintaining a healthy body weight is finding the best way that works for you.