End the yo-yo diet cycle

End the yo-yo diet cycle

Last spring you reached your goal weight and celebrated by hitting the beach in a bikini. Then your job got stressful, you didn’t find time to work out and your healthy eating spiraled out of control. Now you realize there’s no way you’re going to hit your target weight before your friend’s wedding next month unless you start the yo-yo diet cycle … again.

This scenario may sound all too familiar. A yo-yo diet — or weight cycling, as experts call it — is practically a national pastime. The reason: often, our weight-loss efforts don’t stick. “We have this mentality that a diet is something to go on and then get off as quickly as possible,” says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., a health and wellness consultant and former founding director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Weight Management Center. “But lasting weight loss requires making lifestyle changes that will work long-term.” Try these strategies to help you balance the scale for good.

Soothe without food

Rather than inhaling a bag of chips when things get stressful, try making a list of calming strategies that don’t involve the cookie jar. (Hint: Do this before you’re stressed.) Sometimes all you need to break the cycle is a quick walk or a brief chat with a positive friend. When you feel overwhelmed, consult your list and pick out something you can do in the next 10 minutes that will distract you long enough for your stress levels to come down.

Change your goals

There will always be a reunion, wedding or vacation to slim down for. But once the big event has come and gone, what will keep you from splurging on dessert every night?

Rather than trying to keep the pounds off just long enough to impress strangers on your vacation, think about rewarding long-term achievements. Maybe you want to train for your first half-marathon or get in shape to hike the Grand Canyon. Setting a big new goal each time you check one off your list will keep you motivated to be healthy.

Focus on how you feel

Zeroing in solely on calories can make it hard to stick to your plan if you aren’t seeing results. Instead, try focusing on how you feel. Do you have more energy? Are you able to keep up with your kids? If you take the time to notice the positive effects of each healthy behavior — whether it’s pushing away from the table before you clean your plate or biking for 30 minutes a day — it’s easier to motivate yourself to stay on track.

Share your meals

Studies show that jotting down what you eat every day may help you lose more weight than if you just winged it. Also, many web-based food diaries are also linked to online weight-loss communities of fellow dieters who can act as your cheerleaders and help hold you accountable.

Make a clean sweep

A messy house can interfere with your efforts to make smart choices — particularly if your kitchen is such a wreck that it’s just easier to go for takeout. Clear the counters so you have no excuse not to prepare meals. Then clean out and restock your pantry and fridge with good-for-you picks — fruits, vegetables, lean meats, soups and whole grains. It’s simple to whip up a quick, satisfying dinner when you know you’ve got tasty foods on hand.

(Fitness is fuel for women who are serious about being healthy and staying strong. Online at www.fitnessmagazine.com.)