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Me Minus 10: Keeping the change

Guest blogger Brian Wansink offers advice on how to maintain Mindless Eating habits after such habits have helped you lose weight, as they have for me during my Me Minus 10 campaign.

"Losing weight is easy. It's keeping weight off that is hard."

I didn't believe this the first time I heard it. But I'm quickly becoming a convert.

A short time ago I had lunch with a person who had won "The Biggest Loser" competition one year. We had just finished giving speeches at a big conference, and the adrenalin rush from having finished had left us both "stress-famished." Our lunch together was a ton of fun, but I kept noticing this person's saying things like, "Notice how I'm not putting dressing on my salad," "Notice how I've taken the turkey off my sandwich and I'm not eating the bread" and "Notice how I've asked for a refill of water."

After about the fourth or fifth time he mentioned food I began to realize he wasn't really talking to me. He was talking to himself. He was reminding or reinforcing changes that weren't second nature to him. Wow! That's what I call willpower!

But if this is what it takes to lose weight and "keep the change," it's easy to see why 95 percent of all diets fail.

Five months ago, Jennifer Huget started her Me Minus 10 program. My Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University has been working with Jennifer to find three easy changes that she could make each month. We analyzed photographs of her kitchen, dining room, cupboards and refrigerators. We went over daily patterns of her and her family, and we asked how she would respond to different eating scenarios. Based on this we used our Mindless Method to suggest three easy, daily changes she should consider.

As she writes in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, Jennifer has achieved her goal. Now comes the difficult part.

When a person finishes a goal, it's easy to backslide because the race is finished. Losing 10 or 30 pounds is a reward unto itself. You did it; you won the race, and you want to stop.

The problem is that keeping 10-30 pounds off isn't easy to celebrate. There's no reward, or change, or progress to see. Without the motivation to keep the change, how do you do it?

There are two different options. One is to find a support group for maintaining weight loss -- the TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) program is one of my favorites. A second option is to adjust your goal.

With Jennifer, we helped her adjust her goal. Instead of having the goal to "Lose 10 pounds," she shifted it to "Get my family to eat healthier (without them knowing it)." She kept focusing on making three small changes that would benefit her family, but also help keep her on track. For instance, she put a piece of fruit next to her husband's car keys every morning. She put 20 percent of any dinner entrée into the refrigerator before serving the rest for dinner. She made sure there were little baggies of cut up fruit or vegetables on the middle refrigerator shelf.

Any daily change that keeps you just a little bit disciplined ends up keeping you a lot disciplined. The key to keeping the change is in making a related change.

Brian Wansink is professor and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

Coming Thursday: Guest blogger Pam Peeke shares her insights about getting "there" on a weight-loss journey.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 6, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , Guest Blogger , Me Minus 10 , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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Congratulations to Jennifer on her weight loss. It is easier to keep the pounds off when the weight is lost by adopting healthy habits rather than temporary deprivation. Check out The Mindless Method, It is the only weight loss program endorsed by Dr. Brian Wansink.

"The best diet is the one you don't know you're on." - Brian Wansink

Posted by: moconnor5 | July 6, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

This is so true and why it's so hard for most people to maintain weight loss. In the end you have to change your eating habits, and people either don't know how t do this or don't want to. It's tought to change a behavior that has been with you for ten, twenty, thrity years and it takes time. Add this to the how rigid people are about their eating habits. I have a brother in law who literally will not eat anything that isn't highly processed and accopanied by an expensive advertising campaign. If the food isn't advertised on TV it must not be edible. What do you do for somebody like that?
My husband lost 20 pounds over a period of a year and a half and all we did was stop buying sodas, candy, and ice cream. Keep your trigger foods out of the house, learn to enjoy fruit, a good cup of tea, and a little poporn in the evening and you can drop weight without even buying a gym membership.

Posted by: tiggertime1 | July 6, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

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