Weight loss and regain – weight cycling – is very common. Because of the lack of success keeping weight off in the past, it would be a good idea to use a different approach.

Rather than following a strict diet, adopting healthy, ongoing lifestyle changes would be a more effective way to lose weight, improve health and maintain weight loss in the long term.

The typical approach to losing weight uses a dieter’s mentality. People follow a restrictive programme that forces them to always limit what they eat.

This type of strict diet often makes people feel deprived. When dietary habits are negative and restrictive, they’re likely to be temporary.

Eventually, people feel they can’t keep it up any more, so they abandon their efforts and often gain back any weight they lost.

Contrary to what many people think, this cycle of losing and gaining weight does not increase a person’s risk for health problems. In addition, weight cycling does not make it more difficult to lose weight again.

That said, weight cycling can be very frustrating and undermine a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

There is a more effective approach.

First, one of the most important steps to successful weight loss is planning. Before you make any changes, set goals.

Beyond sustained weight loss, do you want to feel better? Do you want to decrease health risks? Do you want to be able to be more active?

Setting your fitness goals can help you stick to leading a healthy lifestyle. Photo: AFP/ Istock

Setting your goals can help you stick to leading a healthy lifestyle. Photo: AFP/ Istock

If you decide on those goals first, you may find that you realise them as you make healthy lifestyle changes – even if you don’t reach a specific number on the scale.

Reaching those goals may be motivating enough to help you maintain your changes.

Once you set your goals, think about lifestyle changes that can help you achieve them. You should be able to incorporate these changes into your daily life, so that they become long-term habits.

Try to make them specific, realistic and positive. For example, you could say, “I’m going to start walking 15 minutes a day, three days a week”, or “I’m going to eat one more serving of fruits and one more serving of vegetables each day”.

As you achieve those changes, continue to build on them. It is possible to decrease calories, follow a practical and tasty dietary pattern, and feel good at the same time. – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service