A friend recently asked me how I transitioned from the In8 program (an 8-week weight loss/lifestyle change program I did last year) to a “normal” lifestyle.
When I enrolled in the In8 program I was fully committed to it. I attended all the sessions, worked out the required 5 times a week, counted my calories and drank my water. I was a model student.
Well, with the exception of continuing my coffee habit. Oh, and the occasional glass of wine. And, come to think of it, I never really did get into the meditation thing. (I was supposed to meditate once daily for stress relief.)
Okay, so, except for the coffee, wine and mediating, I was great. (What can I say? No one’s perfect.)
But then, before I knew it, the program ended and I was on my own.
My first thought was, “THANK GOD THAT’S OVER! No more checking in with the In8 staff. I’m throwing away that stupid piece of paper that says how much and of what I am allowed to eat and I’m definitely not drinking any more of that UltraMeal stuff. Woo hoo!!”
Without someone watching over me, I was free. That’s the good news, and the bad news. Now that I was only accountable to myself what was I going to do?
It’s been a little over a year since my 8-week program and I’m happy to report, I’ve kept most of the weight off. (I’ve only gained four pounds back.)
The journey’s been full of highs and lows and I’ve learned a lot.
Here’s are my key lessons for managing the transition from a structured lifestyle change program to your new “normal” life.
1) Know thyself.
First and foremost you have to find things that fit with your tastes, time constraints and personality.
For example, one of the tenets of the program is to eat breakfast. I hate eating in the morning. I’d rather sit quietly with my coffee until about 10:00 am. However, I realized that if I don’t eat something I’m starving by 10:30, at which point I’m more likely to reach for something unhealthy. As a compromise, I eat light. A protein bar, small bowl of cereal or some oatmeal works for me. It’s enough to fuel my body but not so much that it completely repulses me.
Another example of knowing thyself, relates to working out.
I am a pleaser. I don’t like to let people down. Unless of course that person is me. I will renege on promises made to myself in a heartbeat, but every other human on the planet, no way.
Recognizing this, I decided to continue working out with Marq, the personal trainer with the In8 program. Knowing that I have a scheduled workout with him gets me to the gym. Or more accurately, my insatiable need to be liked gets me to the gym. If I stood Marq up he wouldn’t like me and that would kill me. Not to mention that that would be rude and the second most important thing to me is being polite.
Don’t let people down and be nice. That’s my mantra.
Tapping into this piece of insight about myself has resulted in maintaining my twice-weekly workouts for over a year. I only miss a workout if I’m out of town or sick.
If you’re self- motivated, great. But if you’re struggling with maintaining your workout routine, find a gym buddy or hire a trainer. Having someone else push you to be accountable is a good thing.
2) Snack your way to good health.
I never used to snack, but one of principals of the program is to eat five small meals a day as this allows your body to maintain an even blood sugar level.
Now my house is stocked with healthy snacks. There’s always a bowl of nuts on the kitchen counter, protein bars in the pantry and fruit and yogurt in the fridge. When I get a little hungry, instead of saying, “I’ll just wait until dinner,” I grab a light snack. It keeps me satisfied and prevents me from overeating at the next meal.
3) Planning is a necessary evil.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “plan” is a four-letter word. People hate it. And here’s the dirty truth. You have to plan ahead to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you wait to think about what to make for dinner when you come home from work, you’re sunk. Most likely you’ll go out to eat or order take-out. And those options tend to be higher in fat and calories than what you’d cook at home.
I plan out my weekly menu on Sunday, taking into account any family evening activities, and then I shop for all the ingredients. The weekly menu sits on my recipe stand next to the stove, so there’s no guesswork. On Monday I look at the menu, grab the ingredients and make dinner. Easy breezy.
Planning ahead is necessary for your workouts too. Like planning dinner on the fly, trying to grab a quick workout when it fits into your schedule is a disaster. Schedule those ahead of time. I’ve found that keeping my workouts at the same time every week helps me stick to them. Knowing that Tuesday and Friday mornings are blocked out for exercise, I plan other activities around those times.
4) Be calorie conscious
While I don’t track my daily calories any more, I am aware of high-calorie foods and I choose lighter versions.
For example, creamy salad dressings are loaded with fat and therefore calories, so I choose oil-based instead. Grilled or baked meat is better than deep-fried. Low-fat dairy products are better than full-fat versions.
When dining out, if I’m unsure of a meal I’ll Google its calorie count. CalorieKing is a great web site for calorie information.
5) Splurge a little
There’s nothing wrong with indulging on occasion. Food is good! That’s why we love it. So go a little crazy, and then get back on track.