Nothing is off limits if you stick to a few basic nutrition guidelines. Credit: Yoskimov | Flickr

You might have heard the statistic that 95% of people who lose weight gain it back within five years. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I can say that I was one of those people. I lost 20 pounds in my early twenties, and by the time I was 31 I had regained all the weight plus five pounds.

Last year I got my act together and lost 15 lbs, which I’ve maintained relatively easily. I fluctuate around 3 lbs, from 118-121. I did try to go on a cut for a while, but for the sake of transparency, I was not successful. That’s going to take some next level shit which I can discuss in the future. For now, let’s focus on maintenance.

There’s a huge emphasis on fat loss in the media, but not enough on maintenance in my opinion. I get it–fat loss is hard work. It requires change, perseverance and sacrifice. And if you play your cards right, you get the coveted before and after photo. But what happens after you put the camera down? When it’s time to go back to regular life? This is often where complacency sets in. If our new habits were not solidified during the fat loss process, the pounds will creep back on.

This is why I’m so passionate about getting your habits and mindset straight. They set you up to play the long game so that once you lose the weight, you’re on autopilot. You don’t have to expend mental energy fighting your old cravings and habits because your new ways have simply become ingrained into who you are.

These days I feel that my habits are pretty solid. But I have to be honest, sometimes it baffles me that I’m able to maintain my weight loss despite indulging in drinks and heavy food about three times a week. It almost feels…too easy. I expect the pounds to creep on, but so far they haven’t. There are weeks where I overdo it, but within a few days of normal habits and hydration I’m back to my previous state.

I feel pretty damn lucky that I get to enjoy the things that I love. And it’s all because I stick to the following simple nutrition guidelines.

  • I’m deliberate with carbs. I’m not saying they’re evil, but I keep my portions of them lower. I’ll usually have starches around my workout and for the occasional indulgence, otherwise I’m mostly a protein and veggies girl.
  • I stopped emotional eating. This one is huge. I used to binge and eat whenever I was bored. I’m not going to sugarcoat it; getting out of the emotional eating cycle is tough. It merits its own post, but for the sake of brevity, the best thing we can do to combat it is get aware of our thought process. We should notice when we’re eating when we’re not actually hungry. Is there a feeling we are trying to distract ourselves from? Acknowledge the feeling and find a more productive outlet for it.
  • I eat healthy about 85% of the time. I usually eat 4 times a day. That’s 28 meals per week. If I am 85% compliant that means that about 4 of those meals can be “cheats.” The rest of my meals are on-point. Also, I try to spread the cheats out so I’m not having them consecutively.
    • What constitutes a cheat? I am super flexible on this during maintenance. I don’t consider something like one small or medium slice of pizza a cheat because it’s the caloric equivalent of a regular meal for me (~250-400 cals). A small piece of chocolate or one serving of ice cream isn’t a cheat either. For me, a cheat is something that is very calorically dense, like a large serving of chips or fries, most restaurant meals and decadent desserts.
  • I aim for the most bang for my buck. You might often hear that adding fats to your meal will help you feel more satisfied. That is NOT the case for me. A measly handful of nuts is not going to do shit for my satiety. I need volume. That’s why I like proteins and vegetables. Fats are important and I do eat them, but I can’t rely on them to hold me over. Some voluminous staples for me are cauliflower rice, egg whites, zucchini and spaghetti squash. You can eat a lot of them without overdoing it on carbs or protein, and they take to many different flavors and combinations.
  • Eating to 80% full. I’m still not perfect with this one, but I have gotten so much better with listening to my stomach. I used to eat until I hated myself on weekly basis. But I’ve stopped stuffing myself. I do still get full and sometimes feel like I ate too much, but not to the point where I have to undo my pants or I feel sick. For the most part I’m aware of my fullness and stop before I start to feel gross.

So that’s it. Nothing too fancy, and it feels SO sustainable. Also keep in mind that these guidelines are helpful even if you aren’t on a fat loss mission. Maybe you just want to get healthier by cleaning up your nutrition a little bit. Can’t go wrong with getting mindful about your appetite/satiety and adding in more veggies!

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