If you're like most Americans, you've dieted before. And if you've dieted once, it's likely that you've dieted more than once in your lifetime. Thanks to the overly restrictive rules most diets place on your day-to-day, many people put themselves through multiple diets hoping this next one with be "the one" before it fizzles out again and you're back at square one. |
When you restrict the energy, or food, you give your body, you can easily lose weight, sure. Over time, though, your body will not function optimally. Your car cannot run on empty and neither can your body. Eventually, you give in to your feelings of hunger and gain back the weight you lost, likely even more because under-eating can slow down your metabolism.
While on a diet, your body is fighting to remain at its set point, or your happy weight.
According to the set-point theory, you have an adult weight at which your body works best. In theory, you should be able to maintain your set-point weight effortlessly by living a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Your set-point weight doesn't require deprivation or elimination of food groups. Rather, it requires balanced and normal eating, according to your hunger signals, which include both nourishing foods and indulgences.
Giving yourself permission to find and maintain your set-point weight is the first step in settling in at your happy weight. For chronic dieters, it will take a subtle mindset shift to find your personal balance between living a healthy lifestyle and enjoying your life. Committing to healthy, but not overly restrictive habits, including eating nourishing foods and a consistent exercise routine, is a great first step in the right direction. Over time, your body will start to crave healthier food and movement to maintain that weight that is best for you.
If you cannot remember a time where you felt wonderful without overanalyzing or counting every bite of food you ate, chances are you were dieting and not comfortably settled at your set point. On your quest to get healthy and feel your best in your own skin, it's important to look for these signs to know you've reached a happy—and healthy—weight.
1. You feel great.
Your first indication that you've reached your happy weight should be in how you feel—not the actual number on the scale. While so much emphasis is placed on those numbers, your weight is only a small indication of your overall health and well-being.
When you have the energy to sustain your busy lifestyle, you do not crash at 3 p.m. every afternoon and you can partake in the activities that you love, chances are good that you've reached a weight that feels great on your body. This is because a nourishing diet with moderate exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and promotes good health.
Weight is an individualized health marker. Every body works optimally at a different weight, so it is important to avoid comparing yourself to others when discovering the weight at which you feel your best.
2. You can have your cake and eat it, too.
If it takes meticulous planning, hours out of your weekend and tons of counting to maintain your weight, your happy weight is still just out of reach. When you spend hours counting (calories or grams of protein or fat, for example), you are not following your intuitive eating signals. You're following a prescriptive diet, and dieting doesn't help you reach your set-point weight.
On the other hand, when you are able to eat nourishing foods according to your body's hunger and satiety cues, you're eating more intuitively, which helps your body maintain a weight that is conducive to your lifestyle needs. Two major components of eating intuitively are honoring your hunger and listening to your cravings. Eating every few hours throughout the day, according to those signals, allows your body to feel secure in utilizing the fuel you're providing. This simple act eliminates the "starvation mode" that your body endures when you're on a depriving diet.
Additionally, when you eat the foods most appealing to you, you can easily be satisfied with a smaller serving. Imagine eating a gooey, rich slice of chocolate cake. A few bites may be more satisfying knowing you can always come back for more. Compare this feeling to a restrictive dieting style of eating where you're only allowing yourself salads and steamed vegetables. Suddenly that same chocolate cake makes you ravenous due to the deprivation.
At your happy weight, you will be able to include the foods you love to eat on a regular basis—without the stress. This is all part of freeing your mind and developing a healthier relationship with food. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you're confident enjoying a slice of birthday cake without landing in guilt city after your last bite, you're likely at a manageable place in your weight-loss journey where food does not define you and you're able to feel both satisfied and healthy.
3. You don't stress out over food.
Eating should be an enjoyable part of your life; however, food should not control the choices you make in living your life or contribute to your stress levels. If you're constantly thinking about what you are going to eat and when, food may play a bigger role than you're willing to admit.
Understanding that food doesn't have to control your life can be a difficult concept for most chronic dieters to internalize. While dieting, it's important to have a game plan for the way you eat as you work on your relationship with food. You may have meticulously planned out every morsel of food you were going to eat for the day, mapped out how you were going to navigate a party or and counted everything.
At your happy weight, you can escape the dieting mentality and no longer need to worry about where, what and when your next meal will be for the sake of your weight. This is especially poignant in social situations: Enjoying unplanned meals can be the key moment you realize you've reached a weight where you can relax and just be you.
4. You don't feel the need to weigh yourself every day.
When trying to lose weight, daily weigh-ins are beneficial. However, once you reach your goal, weighing yourself daily may be more of an obsessive ritual, and could possibly be associated with negative emotional implications if there are fluctuations in the scale. While research does show that self-monitoring is beneficial for maintaining weight loss, less frequent monitoring is needed when you are at your happy weight.
When you feel most comfortable in your skin, energized to sustain your daily activities and emotionally content, your actual weight is not as important; the number on the scale only shows a small snapshot of your overall health and well-being, which you are now in control of completely. Now, focusing on other wellness parameters, such as your energy level and mood, can be a better indication of how you are maintaining your new lifestyle.
5. You care more about other things in your life.
Whether it's working toward your next promotion at work or planning your next vacation, feeling content at your healthy weight frees up mental space so you can enjoy the rest of your life a little bit more.
Oftentimes when you're concerned about losing weight or maintaining extreme weight loss, your thoughts are preoccupied with food, exercise, hydration and living a healthy lifestyle. When you're able to confidently maintain your weight with ease, you have more time and energy to care about everything else in your life.
You may find more time to do the things you love, take care of yourself emotionally as well as physically, and foster a better relationship with your loved ones. Plus, when you don't worry about your body size, you can focus on loving yourself for who you are, not your exterior.
Your happy weight isn't a specific number. For you, it could be 10 pounds heavier, five pounds lighter or 20 pounds more. Whatever the number is isn't as important as how you feel when you've reached a weight that you can live your life enjoying indulgences and balancing diet and exercise, all without obsessing over food.