Weight Q&A: Beat Yo-Yo Dieting

Family Health, News and Advice
on October 4, 2010

Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

QUESTION: I’m a current “fat guy”: 230 pounds, 5 foot 10 inches. I try to jog and walk to lose weight. But every time lose a few pounds, I feel like celebrating and get so excited that I end up going out to dinner (or overeating) and messing up my progress. This has happened at least 10 times. How can I avoid falling into this trap again?  -Ed

DEAR ED: I’m very familiar with your issue, as I too was often guilty of “excessive celebration,” to cleverly whip out a football metaphor. Unfortunately, this penalty’s not assessed in yards, but pounds.

The best way to keep your celebrations from sabotaging your success? My advice:

1. First, set mini goals, and only celebrate when you achieve them. It sounds as if you may be rewarding yourself whenever you see some movement on the scale. You’d probably benefit from taking a more systematic approach to your weight loss, which would keep you from having a food fest whenever you feel like it. So, for instance, make it a goal to lose, say 5 pounds before you celebrate. Or consider rewarding yourself for the behaviors that lead to weight loss and getting healthier, like exercising consistently or eating a minimum of five servings of vegetables a day, or whatever. When you reward behaviors rather than weight lost, you’re more likely to make those behaviors a permanent part of your lifestyle. Make sure the goals you set are challenging yet realistic.

2. Make a list of rewards that don’t involve food/drink. A round of golf? Bowling with the guys? A trip to the Bass Pro Shop? Sorry for the testosterone-fueled stereotypes, but you get the picture, I hope. When you think about it, there are probably many ways to celebrate that you’d enjoy more than scarfing down burgers and beers. I think sometimes we just get lazy and rely on food because it’s safe it’s known, and it’s easy. Brainstorm things that will really make you feel like you’ve achieved something special. For instance, I would love an afternoon alone with a book and no house to clean or emails to answer or laundry to be done. Or a pedicure. Or a movie that doesn’t involve animated characters or robotic assassins in a real theater.

3. Forgive yourself and move on. Say that, despite my extremely helpful advice, you fall into the excessive celebration trap again. Don’t let one night throw you off track completely. One of the things that keep us from losing weight and getting healthy for good is this all-or-nothing thinking: If I can’t stick with my diet/exercise plan 24/7, then I might as well give up altogether. One overindulgent meal shouldn’t undo all the hard work you’ve done–don’t let it. Shake it off and start fresh the next day. To borrow from the gridiron again, one fumble doesn’t lose the game, unless you let it.