If you measure my weight loss on the Princess Leia scale, I'm Leia in Boushh's armor rescuing Han Solo from Jabba's palace at the beginning of Return of the Jedi. In layman's terms, I'm just entering the last third of my journey and a lot of people have been asking me about what I'm going to do when I'm "done."
Hell, from where I sit, I still have to don a metal bikini, befriend the Ewoks, learn Luke is actually my brother, and restore peace to the galaxy. I guess other people see me as "approaching the finish line" even though I still see a whole lot of work still to be done. I'm not ready to leave Nutrisystem yet, but I do plan to when I reach my goal. It's been well worth the expense but it's not at all realistic for me to continue to pay for the program for any longer than I need to. Many of the Nutrisystem naysayers think the program is unsustainable for this very reason; Sure, it's easy to execute, but do you learn enough about nutrition and portion sizes to maintain your weightloss after you're off the program?
No matter what your system is (Weight Watchers, Paleo, South Beach, Seattle Sutton, etc), it's your responsibility to learn about the program and why it's working for you. If you don't, you WILL gain the weight back. This is not a process that just ends when you "Ding" your goal weight on the scale and reach max level. It's a lifelong education and you owe it to yourself to put in the time and effort to ensure continued success. If you leave it till the last second, sooner or later temptation and lack of knowledge will find a way to lead you right down the old path you were on before you started.
That's why I've started educating myself now, rather then at the end of the program. Here's some advice I've picked up along the way.
- You need to read the labels on your food and look at the ingredients. It's not just about calories, it's about content.
- If there's something that's easy to make on your program, like oatmeal, or a healthier desert that you really like, start looking for an equivalent. For example, I found low-sugar-low-fat Quaker Oatmeal in Maple Brown Sugar and Apple Cinnamon for a breakfast that's similar to Nutrisystem's versions of the same product. I also found UNREAL: Candy Unjunked at my local CVS. They basically make candy with lower sugar, no corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oil, no artificial ingredients, no preservatives, and low glycemic index. Their Milky Way equivalent has the same amount of sugar as an apple and is only 170 calories, as opposed to 270 in an actual Milky Way. In addition, I'll be replacing my lunch bars at work with Luna bars.
- You need to look at what proper portions are and find a way to help you measure them once it's not being done for you. Invest money in measuring cups/spoons and invest time in using them for anything from measuring rice to salad dressing.
- If you're on Weight Watchers, you need to look at WHY certain foods are worth more than others. Even within that system, there are things that are way better for you than others and it's nice to know why because it can help you make informed decisions when under pressure. Don't just follow your chosen program blindly.
- No matter what you're doing, you'll have to learn how to cook sooner or later if you want to live in a healthier more cost effective way. My nutritionist gave me a copy of Integrative Nutrition which is full of advice on how to fuel your body and includes a lot of yummy recipes. If there's something you like on your "prepackaged food" diet, learn how to make it so when you're done with the program you won't feel like you've been left high and dry.
Personally, I'm going to take it in strides. I've learned a lot, but I'm hardly an expert and I have a long way to go. My plan is to get on Weight Watchers when I get to maintenance so that I still have a general measurement system for planning my daily food that doesn't rely solely on calories (since I hate that). Their program definitely allows for increased flexibility as far as eating out goes it converts your workouts into more "points" to use for your day- something you'll definitely want to take advantage of in maintenance. I'm finding some great equivalents for the foods I enjoy on Nutrisystem, either in the store or by learning to cook them, and I'm starting to give myself fitness goals as well as scale goals so I can stay motivated after I reach my weightloss goal. The key here is to be specific, i.e. I'd like to be able to run a 5k or I'd like to be able to stay in a shoulder stand during yoga for 10 minutes and not "I want to run. Spinning might be fun."
So that's where I am! What are you doing to ensure your continued success after you reach your goal? I'd love to hear any advice in the comments!