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Keep up the good work with your weight loss

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Maintain a healthy diet and activity levels

Just as when you start trying to lose weight, keeping up these changes and weight loss also takes effort and dedication.

It's important to maintain a healthy balanced diet and healthy levels of physical activity over time, to work towards achieving (or maintaining) a healthy weight. That way, you'll keep getting the benefits to your physical and mental health.

Here are some helpful strategies and ideas that can help you maintain the changes you've made.

Building a healthy diet and activity into your routines

You're more likely to keep up your new eating and activity routines in the long term if they become a habit.

If you link your routines to 'cues' (or triggers), you're more likely to maintain them over time.  A 'cue' can be:

  • Other people
  • An object such as a note on your fridge door
  • The time of day
  • Other behaviours or events, such as lunch time
  • How you feel, such as stressed or happy

There are cues wherever you go. This could be in your car, at work, at home, etc. Positive cues can trigger you to be active, eat a healthy diet and remind you of your weight loss goals.

How to create healthy habits using cues

New behaviours can become habits when you repeat them in the same place, or situation in response to a cue.

For example, using your lunch break to take a walk each day you are at work. Over time, this cue (lunch break) will trigger the habit (walking) without you being aware of it.

Some of the time you may choose not to be active or reach for a snack without even thinking about it. For example:

  • You always have two biscuits with a mid-morning cup of tea. Or when you are feeling stressed you reach for the chocolate.
  • You always park your car in the nearest space to the entrance to the supermarket. Or when it's raining you choose not to go for your daily walk.

You can build a healthy habit by:

  • Replacing the biscuits or chocolate with a healthier snack. This could be a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.
  • Replacing the close parking or missing your walk with a healthier option. This could be parking your car in the furthest space away from the supermarket entrance. Or you could get a raincoat and wet weather trousers for walking.

Repeat this every time you get the cue (having a cup of tea or a rainy day) until you grab your healthier alternative without thinking about it.

Break unhealthy habits

You can break unhealthy habits by removing 'negative cues'. These are cues which may encourage us to eat unhealthily or to stop being physically active.

For example, storing bags of crisps at the front of the cupboard. You could replace the crisps with a healthier snack or put them out of sight. Or, storing your car keys right by the front door. You could put your walking shoes and rain coat by the door instead.

You may have habits that you're not aware of. Think about your eating and activity habits, and whether are they linked to a cue or event. For example, if you went to a market to buy food instead of the supermarket, would you automatically try to park at the market entrance?

Once you recognise these cues, think about how to break them and form new and healthier habits.

In this section we present two main approaches to end an unhealthy habit.  We encourage you to consider which would work best for you:

  • You could consider changing the cue or trigger. If the cue is parking close to the supermarket entrance, think about going to the market in town instead.
  • You could change the way you respond to a cue. Instead of staying inside when it rains, put on your wet weather gear and walk anyway.

Take a moment to think about the cues in your environment. Think about positive cues as well as negative cues you could change.

These positive cues could help you increase the amount of activity you're doing or help you eat more healthily. You might want to note these down or save a copy of these statements to print off and fill in later:

1. Replacing or changing the cue (or trigger)

Existing cues which I already have in my environment are: 

New cues which could trigger me to be more physically active or eat healthier, which I could add to my environment, are:

Cues that trigger me not wanting to be physically active or eat unhealthily, that I could remove from my environment, are:

2. Change the way you respond to a cue (or trigger)

A replacement activity I could do after a trigger (which can make me choose not to be physically active or eat unhealthily) is:

Something positive I could tell myself after experiencing a trigger (which I did not give in to) is:

Using your environment and social support to stay on track

The people and things around you can keep you motivated and positive. They can help you maintain a healthy level of physical activity and healthy eating habits.

This can be when you are at home, work, or with friends. A supportive environment could be a:

  • Workplace that provides a nice location to organise a walk with a colleague when on lunch break. It could also offer discounts for leisure centre memberships
  • Home where a family member cooks you a healthy evening meal on the days you're late home from work

Good social support could be:

  • A family member who knows about your goal to lose weight by increasing your physical activity. They offer to join you when you are planning to be active. They'll walk, swim or cycle with you when you're not motivated to go alone.

Make sure that your environment and social support are as supportive as possible. Think about those places or events that may get in the way of continuing to exercise or eating healthily.

For example, when a friend or colleague cancels meeting you for a swim, or when a friend brings round a cake. These may be regular events and be difficult to avoid.

So think about what makes it difficult (barriers or obstacles) and what will make it easier (solution) for you. Try making an If-Then plan which can help you plan ahead for difficult situations.

An example of a physical activity If-Then plan may be:

  • If a colleague has too much work on so they're unable to join me for a walk at lunchtime... Then I'll ensure I still stick to my plan and walk alone, even if I shorten the time I walk for

An example of a healthy eating If-Then plan may be:

  • If a friend has brought round a cake... Then I'll ensure I've made myself a tasty and satisfying lunch so I'm not tempted by hunger to eat the cake

Find out more about making an If-Then plan.

Keeping an eye on changes to your routine

Keeping track of your emotions, thoughts and behaviours is important. You don't want them to get in the way of maintaining the changes you have made.

Monitoring things that get in the way of you keeping up your changes tells you what you need to overcome these challenges.

For example, if you're stressed and feeling negative, this can trigger you to choose not to do any physical activity or to eat unhealthily. So it's important to find positive ways to deal with stress and negative thoughts. Learn more about managing emotions.

Other examples are a change in your routine due to an illness, or a life event. These can make it challenging to stick to your weight loss goals.

It can be quite normal to experience setbacks when something unexpected happens. The important thing is to notice when these things happen and throw you off course.

If you're aware of what's happening around you and why, use it as an opportunity to review your goals and action plans. For example, you may need to be kind to yourself and not set many goals for a week you know will be challenging as you focus on other things.

But you could make a plan to revisit your goals a week later and accept that things will have slipped a bit. Planning how you might respond to challenges ahead of time means you're prepared for them.

One type of plan that can help you stay on track with your weight loss goals in these situations is an If-Then plan. To give an example relating to physical activity:

  • If I'm planning on going away to visit family for a few days... Then I will not be able to walk my usual route on those days. But I will speak to a family member and see if they would walk with me when we are away.

To give an example relating to eating a healthy balanced diet:

  • If I'm planning on going out for a meal... Then I'll check the menu online before I go. I'll decide which is the healthiest meal available and order that on the night

Find out more about making an If-Then plan.

Staying motivated

Often the things that motivate you to start changing your lifestyle to lose weight, are not the same things you need to maintain those changes.

It's important to think about what motivates you to continue making any changes to your diet and the level of physical activity you do. It's easier to maintain changes if you have at least one thing that motivates you.

For instance:

  • Being satisfied and happy with what you have achieved. You're now eating a more healthy balanced diet and feel good about it. Or you're now doing different forms of exercise, and enjoying them and feel good about it.
  • Enjoying doing that new behaviour. It could be cooking using healthier ingredients or walking new routes along the coast
  • The new behaviour is more in line with who you are or what you believe in

It may be useful to think about these motivators and how they are relevant to you. To do this, try completing the below statements. You can note this down or  save a copy (PDF) [92KB] to print off later and fill in:

The thing I am most satisfied about with my new healthy eating/physical activity choices are:

The thing I am most enjoy about my new behaviour is:

My new behaviour of (add new behaviour here) matches my identity, beliefs and values.

Having the right resources to keep you on track

One final strategy is to make sure you have a range of resources at hand whenever you need them. The articles and activities we've provided should give you resources and tools to use.

Types of resources that can help you keep on track can include:

  • Practical tools, such as an app which tracks your physical activity or what you eat
  • Emotional support, from a family member, friend or colleague
  • Self-care skills. This could be getting enough sleep, effective time management, managing emotions, keeping fit and healthy.

For more information to help you keep on track, see the following: