If you have a love/hate relationship with the bathroom scale, you’re about to get some great—and free—therapy. Robert Reames, Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute expert and author of Make Over Your Metabolism, has helped his personal clients and guests on The Dr. Phil Show drop pounds and keep them off, and he’s here to give you his top eight pieces of advice on keeping your waistline in check.
1. Be Realistic
“People who lose an incredible amount of weight on a TV show rarely keep it off,” Reames says. “That’s why you don’t see a lot of follow-ups on the participants.” The problem is that those dieters have reached those goals in an unrealistic setting. You have to accept certain constrictions on your time and how disciplined you’re willing to be in the long term. So when you decide what exact weight you want to maintain, do it honestly. “To configure that number, think about when you were at your personal best,” Reames explains. Think about what you had to do—the gym time, the meal preparation—and honestly assess what you could and couldn’t do. “Create it visually: What do you realistically have to do to get there? Are you willing to do 80% of that? 50%?”
2. Get your Rest
“Good sleep is essential to keeping weight off,” Reames says. “You can be eating great and working out, but if you aren’t sleeping well, that tiredness catches up with you.” Your workouts can become sluggish, and sleep deprivation causes hunger, which brings on an urge to snack throughout the day and choose high-calorie dishes. He recommends at least eight hours of sleep a night.
3. Know your Triggers
We all know that certain things have an immediate effect on our emotions. A post from @dailypuppy on Instagram might make you instantly chirpy, while an e-mail from passive-aggressive Andy over in cubicle 240 is sure to set you off. “Knowing the good triggers can often help you manage the bad ones in a healthy way,” Reames explains. So if you know a bad meeting with a boss usually sends you to the nearest bar after work, try to snap out of it with a good trigger—such as the afterglow from a good yoga class.
4. Keep your “Eye of the tiger”
Just like the song says—went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop—you have to remember how you got to this weight and let that motivate you. “This is why I suggest journaling,” Reames says. “Nothing long—just small notes on your smartphone to discuss how you’re feeling, so when you’re struggling, you can look back at when you were highly motivated.” Use modern technology to its full advantage, too, and keep encouraging photos at the ready. “I have a photo of me as a heavy kid,” he says.
5. Ditch the old clothes
“Those pants that no longer fit? Donate them or alter them,” Reames says. “Keeping them around just gives you an exit route.” Make sure to bring this mind-set to anything else that doesn’t fit in your new life. Maybe football on Sunday always meant a six-pack of beer and potato chips. Swap those out for one beer and a veggie platter.
6. Don’t skip the weights
Cardio might help you shed pounds fast, but to stay in shape—especially as you age—you need to do total-body strength training. “The amount of muscle you have dictates your metabolism,” Reames says. If you don’t know where to start, grab a session with a Gold’s Gym personal trainer and get a tutorial on machines and free weights. Many gyms offer one free session with your membership.
7. Protect your new ecosystem
To get where you are now, you probably made some healthy choices, such as scheduling your gym time or making fruit your go-to snack. “You created an environment of success and that is integral to your health,” Reames explains. And within that you have to allow for a cheat day and a little personal forgiveness.
“No one is on track all the time, but as long as you stay on track most of the time, then you’re doing well,” he says.
8. Make a weekly date with the bathroom scale
That’s right. Time to get friendly with your former enemy. “Weigh in weekly,” he advises. “It’s easy to get out of check, so use it as a self-assessment.” If the scale doesn’t serve up the number you were hoping for, don’t get mad—get even. Use it as motivator for that week. Maybe you do an extra workout class, or make plans for a big weekend bike ride. Remember: Your scale never meant to hurt your feelings.
Reames strongly suggests that you read up on the latest health and fitness studies from these sources (some of which he follows on Twitter):
Mayo Clinic (@MayoClinic)
Tufts Nutrition (@TuftsNutrition)
Centers for Disease Control (@cdcgov)