In 2010, Rebecca Thomas was 50 pounds overweight. She was tired of endless weight loss gimmicks, so she developed a system of routines that allowed her to lose the weight in about a year.
“I decided I was going to stop looking for other people’s plans to fix me because it just didn’t work,” Thomas tells NBC News BETTER.
Thomas, 47, is a restaurant owner in Richmond, Virginia and author of the Medium.com series “Not Another Diet.” She lost 60 lbs in 2010, she says, and eventually gained back ten of those pounds. She was too thin after her initial weight loss, she says, but she’s kept the rest of the weight off since then.
Her ability to lose the weight and keep it off comes not from willpower, Thomas insists, but from the habits and routines she’s developed.
“There’s a lot of ways that our health goals are affected by the way our lives are set up,” she says, “and when I started tackling those things is when I finally saw real progress.”
Here’s how Thomas lost the weight and kept it off.
She created a judgement-free zone around her body
When Thomas was overweight, she had a bad habit of beating herself up about the way she looked, she recalls.
“I was engaging in a lot of negative self talk,” she says. “I was tired of being my own whipping boy. I was tired of saying mean things to myself.”
She says the negative self-talk did nothing to change her eating habits and only made her feel worse, so she stopped judging what she saw in the mirror.
“It turns out that tackling all these different things actually has a huge impact on your ability to lose weight and keep it off,” she says.
Your brain on a dietMarch 16, 201802:33
Focus on routines instead of willpower
Willpower is a poor tool for overcoming poor eating habits, according to Thomas. Our brains want us to eat high calorie foods because that’s what our ancestors had to do to survive, she says.
Instead of relying on willpower, she says she developed a system of rules that prevent temptation in the first place.
Two of those rules include:
- Never bring foods into your home that you know you can’t control yourself around
- Avoid restaurants and eateries where you know the menu options will be too unhealthy
She still gives into temptation once in a while, she says, but doesn’t shame herself when it happens. Instead, she learns from it and moves on.
“I’m not a failure because I ate that whole box,” says Thomas, “— it’s that that whole box is not for me.”
She asks herself: Am I still hungry?
Are you conscious of how full you are while you’re eating? Knowing when it’s time to put down the fork is important if you are going to lose weight and keep it off, says Thomas.
Give yourself permission to eat when you’re hungry, Thomas says, but stop yourself half way through each meal and ask, “Am I still hungry?”
“What I’m really trying to do there is create a habit where you stop and question yourself as you’re consuming something,” she says.
If you’re still hungry, keep eating. If you’re not still hungry, put your food in a container and store it in the fridge for later, she says. Doing this will help you become more conscious of how much you’re eating and how hunger affects you throughout the day.
“When you have overfed yourself for years, those systems inside of you don’t work as well anymore, and it’s a process to get them back,” she says.
Tip: If you’re ravenous before a meal, eat a handful of nuts or something light before you sit down to dine, Thomas says. This will curb your hunger and prevent you from eating too much.
Weigh yourself every day
A big part of maintaining a healthy weight is to get comfortable with what’s on the scale, according to Thomas. She weighs herself each morning, which forces her to be conscious of her weight.
But weighing yourself every day isn’t about the number on the scale, she insists. Instead, it’s about getting to know your body’s fluctuations and how your daily habits influence them.
“It’s a daily reminder of my health goals,” she explains. “It allows me to know where I really am, as opposed to where I think I am, and it keeps me from having wild fluctuations, which I do think is really bad for self esteem.”
She says she doesn’t record her day-to-day weight, noting that she’s more focused on routine than data analysis.
“It keeps my overarching health goal at the front and center of my mind and as a daily practice, a daily reminder,” she says.
Keep in mind: Your weight will fluctuate day to day, so don’t get hung up on a number, she says. Instead, focus on staying within a range of about 3-5 pounds.
Before you focus on losing the weight, Thomas advises weighing yourself each morning for several weeks. This will help you see how your current eating habits are affecting the number on the scale and what you need to change.
She sees her weight as a byproduct of the life she creates
Thomas says she lost the weight and kept it off because she focuses on lifestyle instead of what she sees on the scale.
“A lot of people focus on their weight,” says Thomas, “but what I’ve learned over the last eight years is how you construct your life determines the end product of your weight.”
How to use routine to maintain a healthy weight:
- Stop the body shaming: Shaming yourself only makes you feel worse and does nothing to help you get on a healthier track.
- Forget willpower: Don't rely on willpower alone. Instead, develop a system of rules that prevent you from being confronted with temptation in the first place.
- Understand your hunger cues: Ask yourself "Am I hungry?" Doing this will help you become more conscious of how you are consuming food.
- Get on the scale: This will force you to be conscious of how your eating habits affect your weight. Keep in mind that it’s normal for body weight to fluctuate. Instead of fixating on an exact number, focus on staying within a range of about 3-5 lbs.
- Redefine your weight: Don’t look at your weight as a scary number on the scale — look at it instead as a symbol of your choices.
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