Want to know the secret of those who lose weight and keep it off? They don’t only eat a well balanced diet and stay active, they also add the habit of monitoring their weight to their routine. For many of my patients, such monitoring has provided the missing piece to solving their weight issues for good.
One patient that comes to mind is a man in his mid-50s who started the medical weight loss program with a BMI of 34. After losing the excess weight, he has maintained a BMI of 26 for more than two years.
An engineer by trade, he really took to the idea of monitoring his calorie intake and expenditures on a daily basis and devised a simple spreadsheet that allows him to do so. Once a week he also weighs himself and notes that information in the log.
Sure enough, the daily habit of recording what he eats and knowing how many calories he burns with exercise in addition to his baseline metabolism has made it relatively easy for him to keep the weight he’s lost from creeping back on. If a gain does occur, he’s able to take action when the amount is a few pounds, rather than after he’s unwittingly gained 20 pounds or more.
Now, one doesn’t have to be an engineer or use a spreadsheet to get the same results. A simple notebook or journal can also do the job, as can one of the many websites available that help a person track this type of information.
I like to think of such monitoring as your best defense against losing ground in the battle of the bulge. Multiple studies have shown that people who make monitoring their weight a daily habit are much more likely to lose and keep weight off in the long term.
Another way to think of it is like a checking account. One can keep a running estimate of the balance in his or her head, only to find that the $20 ATM withdrawal here or the $40 check they forgot they wrote suddenly adds to a big deficit thanks to bounced checks and added fees. The small expenses can be overlooked or forgotten much easier than one big purchase, making them all the easier to discount when doing the “approximate” budget in one’s head.
It’s the same with food. A few pieces of candy from the dish at the office here, an extra 200 calories here and there, are much more likely to trip up your weight loss and maintenance plan than an all-out calorie-buster because they are so easy to overlook.
Monitoring can also help one plan ahead. Many of my patients report they find it easier to adhere closely to a meal plan during the work week, when their time is more structured. Cutting out 100 or 200 calories per day allows them to “bank” extra calories for the weekend, when they are more likely to stray from their usual eating routine. They can enjoy a meal out, knowing that they have an extra 700 to 1400 calories to “play with” rather than fear that it will come back to haunt them later.
So if you aren’t doing so already, make a point to start recording everything you eat and drink each day, along with their calorie count. Also keep track of any additional physical activity you do, and how many calories you burned. Finally, weigh yourself every week and record that figure as well. Some people also find it helpful to journal about their emotions, moods, or anything that was difficult or contributed to going off their plan on a particular day.
At first, like any new habit, it may feel artificial. But keep at it, and in time it will become second nature. I can almost guarantee you’ll find you become much more aware of your actions, and that in turn will help keep you on track with your weight loss goals.
Dr. Michael Kaplan
Founder and Chief Medical Officer