So You Gained Weight. Now What?

You decided it's time to lose the weight, and no question, this time will be the last time. Whatever it takes, you're ready to get off the weight-loss rollercoaster and make lifestyle changes that you can stick with forever. You planned your meals, started exercising and were feeling good about the progress you were making. Your clothes were fitting better and you were seeing results on the scale, but soon the new exercise routine starting getting boring and you couldn't shake the cravings for ice cream and pizza. You indulged your cravings and skipped your morning workout to sleep in two days in a row. Suddenly those few days turn into a few more, and before you know it, you've gained back some (or all) of the weight you lost. You're right back where you started and aren't sure what to do next.

The truth is, if losing weight and keeping the weight off were easy, no one would have a weight problem. In this world of instant gratification, where you can get what you want as soon as you want it, resisting temptation is tough. When you've eaten the same way for most of your life, exercise has never been part of your routine or those around you aren't interested (or supportive) of your new health crusade, it is especially difficult to change those hardwired habits. Between the mental toughness and outside influences, it may come as no surprise that some research estimates roughly 95 percent of people regain weight they've lost.  

Does this mean you're destined to be overweight forever? No. Does this mean that if you fall off the wagon and gain the weight back, you're a failure? No. You're not the first person to start over and you certainly won't be the last, so there is no point in beating yourself up or, worse, give up. You can still feel good about yourself regardless of your size or how many times you've had to start over on the weight-loss journey. In fact, feeling better about yourself overall might even make the whole lifestyle change process a little easier.
  1. Show yourself some kindness. Imagine a friend comes to you, upset that he has gained 10 pounds over the past month. What would you say? Would you make him feel bad because he was weak and couldn't stick to his plan? Of course not! You would offer support and assure him that this is just a bump in the road. You wouldn't criticize his efforts, so don't beat yourself up either.

  2. Learn from your mistakes. History has a way of repeating itself. You don't want to dwell on the past, but it is important to learn from what happened so you don't make the same mistakes again. Were you too restrictive with your diet, which led to feelings of deprivation and a binge? Did you commit to too much exercise, which left you feeling tired and sore rather than strong and empowered? Do you need to scale back your expectations about how quickly you'll be able to lose the weight? The changes you make should be things you feel like you can live with for the rest of your life.

  3. Stop focusing on the negative. Instead of dwelling on everything you did wrong, make a list of all the things you did right. Your eating went off the rails, but you've remained consistent with your exercise routine. You started snacking again, but you've continued to drink water instead of soda. Take note of what's going well so you can build on that momentum and push forward.

  4. Start small. What are a few simple things you can do today to get things moving in the right direction again? If drastic changes to your routine caused you to get off track in the first place, it's especially important to ease into new habits. Set a goal to start tracking your food again—even if you aren't making any changes—just to be aware of what you're eating and when. Increase your water consumption by a few glasses, while decreasing the amount of soda you drink. Commit to exercising for just 10 minutes per day over the next two weeks. While these might seem like small changes, when done consistently, they provide the momentum to start working toward those larger goals again.  

  5. It's all about the attitude. You look better when you smile and make eye contact with those around you. You exude confidence when you stand tall and look forward. Even though you might feel like all eyes are on you, judging you for the weight gain, they probably are not. No one is perfect, so learn to accept and own your imperfections. How you feel inside shows on the outside.

  6. Don't obsess about the weight. Have you ever considered stepping off the scale for a while? Sometimes the pressure to lose weight ends up making the process more difficult. The scale is one way to measure progress, but others, like how your clothes fit and your energy levels, can be just as helpful—and much less stressful. Consider taking a break from the scale to focus less on numbers and more on healthy habits.

  7. Treat your body well. Even though you might not be 100 percent happy with your body right now, treating it badly with junk food and inactivity isn't the way to go. Your body does so many amazing things for you every day that it's important to treat it with respect. You can make healthy choices at any size, and you'll be rewarded with more energy and a positive demeanor—regardless of what the scale is telling you.
  8. Realize that you have a choice. You have complete control over what happens from this moment forward. You can choose to let the weight gain get the best of you, or you can choose to get up, dust yourself off and start again. Starting again means you're one step closer to the healthy lifestyle you've been working so hard to achieve. Which will you choose?
Whether you've regained a few pounds or all of the weight you lost, taking that first step to get back on the wagon can sometimes be the hardest. How you handle setbacks, which are a normal part of the process, can make or break a weight-loss journey. With a plan and a positive attitude, weight loss success is entirely within your reach.