How to Transition from Dieting to Healthy Living

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You’ve stayed the course, diligently counting your calories and sticking to an exercise plan for weeks, months or maybe even years. Your goal weight is in the rearview mirror and the jeans you had previously been saving as motivation now slide easily over your hips.
In short, your plan has worked.
Now what?
When you started your weight-loss journey, you might have approached it as a means to an end—a temporary situation, with a specific goal in sight. You might not have thought too much about what would happen when you reached that goal, though.
After an extended period of healthy (perhaps some would say strict) eating and exercising, it can be tough to make the transition from weight-loss mode to all-around healthy living. But bridging the gap between rigorous dieting and healthy living is essential to making your results “stick” for sustained, long-term success.

What’s the Difference Between Dieting and Healthy Living?

By their very nature, dieting and weight loss are restrictive and temporary, says Liza Baker from Simply: Health Coaching. In most cases, you limit or eliminate "unhealthy" things you love for the sake of losing weight, and once you're off the diet, most quickly regain it because they have not actually changed their habits.
Once you’ve reached your goal weight, instead of simply abandoning your diet and returning to those original unhealthy ways, the key is to adopt a healthy lifestyle—but what does that mean, exactly?
“A healthy lifestyle is about adding in deeply nourishing foods and lifestyle practices to build up your nutritional status,” Baker explains. When you embrace this outlook, she says, very often the idea of an external number falls away—suddenly, weight is not what you're most concerned about.
“When you feel this good, there is little incentive to even think about ‘maintenance mode,’ because you now live a lifestyle that is not only healthy, but easy,” Baker points out. “That's why shifting to a new way of being/eating/living is sustainable—there is no sense of punishing yourself or denying yourself, so there's no sense of ‘Oh good, now I can go back to eating the way I used to!’”
After SparkPeople member MARTHA324 reached her goal weight, her transition from weight-loss mode to healthy living was relatively seamless, mainly because she eschewed the whole concept of dieting from the start. “I've been in maintenance for about four years, and actually have found it very easy,” she says. “I didn't go on a diet, [but rather] made gradual changes to the way I eat and move. [I] realized that whatever I did to lose weight was what I'd do forever.”’
SparkPeople member LUCKEGIRL40 views a weight-loss program as a pathway to a healthy lifestyle. “[It] shouldn’t be something you view as a temporary change—it should be a tool that is used to help you learn healthier habits for the long run,” she says.

How to Transition When You’ve Reached Your Goal Weight

If you’ve reached your goal weight (or are close to it), you may be in one of two places: stuck at a plateau or in a fatigue point from the restrictions of your diet. In either case, it’s essential to transition to a healthy lifestyle in order to maintain the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Stop listening to your internal food police.
“These are the thoughts in your head that monitor everything you eat or think about eating,” says Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness and creator of the free challenge Ditch the Diet in 2018. “They're the unreasonable food rules that have developed after years of dieting. It's the voice that says you are ‘good’ for not eating dessert and ‘bad’ for having a bag of chips at lunch. In order to start viewing eating as a normal, pleasurable activity, you have to learn to let go of the food police.”
Rumsey points out that food rules start the guilt-deprivation cycle. In order to make peace with food and stop the chronic diet mentality, you need to feel comfortable integrating all foods into your diet and give yourself permission to eat them whenever you want—in moderation, of course. As your body starts to trust that it will still have access to any and all foods, you'll likely find that cravings and urges to overeat totally disappear.
Don’t obsess (too much) about your weight.
Once you’ve reached your goal weight, it’s normal to be a little—or a lot—scared of a setback. Rumsey points out that 95 percent of people regain the weight they lose on a diet, and two-thirds of them end up at a higher weight than when they started.
While there’s nothing wrong with periodic weigh-ins, resist the temptation to step on the scale every day (or every hour) to make sure your weight is remaining steady. Day-to-day fluctuations are normal, and it’s not productive or healthy to hold yourself to a rigid standard of a certain exact weight.
“Rather than focusing only on the number on the scale, focus on the things you can control, like your health behaviors around food, exercise, sleep and stress,” Rumsey recommends.
Start slowly reintroducing the foods you love.
Now is the time to change your relationship to the diet to one of enjoyment and abundance rather than the feelings of deprivation that people tend to get stuck on during a dieting phase.
Ken Immer, president of Culinary Health Solutions, recommends coming up with a list of the favorite foods that you might have cut out during the dieting phase and that you miss the most. After making the list, look for any foods that could be given a “healthy” makeover, perhaps by lowering the calories or portion size, using cleaner ingredients, adding some fiber or combining with other foods to balance macros.
“Start adding back some of these ‘made-over’ foods into your current plan to make things more familiar and enjoyable, and give you a sense of ‘cheating’ while still maintaining your program,” Immer suggests. “The best way to transition to a healthy living lifestyle after reaching your goal weight is to slowly shift the focus from following strict rules to indulging your taste preferences.”
Seek fulfillment beyond food.
As Baker notes, once you’ve achieved your goal, there are many other lifestyle choices to consider beyond diet and nutrition. For example: What is your physical activity level? How’s the health of your relationships? Are you deriving an adequate amount of fulfillment from your career, hobbies or spiritual practice? Are you getting enough sleep? How about your time spent in nature or with pets?
“These elements are all intimately and intricately related,” says Baker. “Pull one thread, another one loosens; loosen one thread, another one tightens.”
With the right balance of nutrition, moderate splurges, enjoyable movement, and spiritual and mental fulfillment, it is possible to bridge the gap between your dieting life and your healthy, happy future.

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BIKE4HEALTH 3/20/2018
Thanks much...good stuff Report
PLCHAPPELL 3/20/2018
You have to change your lifestyle. That is part of the transition. Report
BIKE4HEALTH 3/19/2018
read it a second time...even better Report
PWILLOW1 3/19/2018
Thanks for the info Report
RHOOK20047 3/18/2018
Great article Report
RHOOK20047 3/18/2018
Great ideas. Report
Thanks I’m trying hard to make it a lifestyle change and not a diet. Report
BIKE4HEALTH 3/17/2018
Great article Report
Thank you! Report
KHALIA2 3/17/2018
Just great! Thank you! Report
LIS193 3/17/2018
Great article! Report
DWROBERGE 3/16/2018
Great article Report
JAMER123 3/16/2018
Great advise. Thanks for sharing a very helpful article. Report
OHMEMEME 3/16/2018
A wise Sparker once said that the difference between weightloss and maintainence is about 300 cals. Therefore the healthy weight will only continue with the healthy diet. Yes, old favs and treats can be integrated but the norm must still be filling up on fruits, veggies, protien, whole grains - the healthy stuff first. My food police has to vigilant. Report
BIKE4HEALTH 3/16/2018
Thanks....great information Report
SHOAPIE 3/16/2018
Great. Report
Wonderful! Report
Interesting article. Report
MIYAMO 3/16/2018
I need to think of this as changing to a healthy lifestyle and not just a diet. Report
DEBIGENE 3/15/2018
Great article, the last paragraph says it all for me. Glad I read this. Report
NANCYPAT1 3/15/2018
Great blog Report
Thanks for the tips Report
PATRICIA-CR 3/15/2018
Right there! Report
PICKIE98 3/15/2018
Replace food with activity. Report
RAZZOOZLE 3/15/2018
interesting article Report
NELLJONES 3/15/2018
Diet is just what you eat, not weight reduction. Make it healthy! Report
AZMOMXTWO 3/15/2018
thank you Report
NEPTUNE1939 3/15/2018
great Report
RO2BENT 3/15/2018
I prefer the term Healthful lifestyle Report
PAMBROWN62 3/15/2018
This time around I chose not to ‘diet’ but to go straight to making a new, healthy lifestyle that includes portion control, moderation, and exercise. It has been a success and this is what I plan to do going forward to goal, maintenance, and beyond, Report
TCANNO 3/15/2018
Thanks for the info Report
RAPUNZEL53 3/15/2018
Thanks. Report
AMYSUZEQ 3/15/2018
Thank you Report
JANIEWWJD 3/15/2018
Thank you for all the info!!!! Report
COMEBACKKID12 3/15/2018
Yes, I agree...Goal weight doesn't make any sense. As you said, it should be a goal range. And measurements are never talked about as much. I also believe in building consistent food and exercise habits too. Report
MSROZZIE 3/14/2018
Excellent blog, very informative. Staying in control of your wants and needs leads to healthy living. Thank you for sharing! Report
_CYNDY55_ 3/13/2018
Excellent, Thanks! Report
ETHELMERZ 3/13/2018
So easy to say, for decades, but not easy to do. That’s why this industry makes billions..... Report
KHALIA2 3/13/2018
Another great article! Thanks for sharing. Report
1CRAZYDOG 3/13/2018
It's a lifestyle. You have to LIVE it daily. That means focusing on living -- not just food! Report
Great article! Just the sort if ideas I have recently begun to make my own.

How refreshing to NOT be "on a diet".

I love the thought that this is how I will live for the rest of my life.

AND, I allow myself lots of little indulgences along the way. I NEVER feel deprived, and I am seeing the slow, easy progress WITHOUT STRESS is getting myself into alignment with my OPTIMAL self.

LOVE IT! Report
The same advice my Gramma gave us over 40 years ago, still is true "A little bit of everything won't hurt you" Report
Thank you for helping me remember that the number on the scale is not what is really important and that eating healthy should be my real goal. Of course, I don't mind losing some weight along the way. Report
thanks for sharing this blog ,you are so right alot of times we think diet & depevation at the same time,but with healthy living we think being around alot longer at the same time i like the latter of the two.About 4-6 months ago i weighed in @ 235lbs & just a litle tweaking on my food selections & a little excercise & i now weigh 214lbs & i am slowly deflating the spare tire around my waist, but i am adopting the idea that slow & steady will get u where u wanna be, cause if u rush u are bound to trip up alot more & are quicker to give up.
Loved this article! Seems like every time I blog about something, an article along the same lines shows up.
It's taken me close to 10 months to lose 12 lbs. That's not counting the 55 lbs. before Spark. I am really proud of that 55 lb. weight loss.

In some ways, I am even prouder of these past 10 months of sheer consistency in exercise and eating. No glamourous size drops, 4 pounds a week gone, or 3 inches disappearing... just total consistency. Frankly, I couldn't be prouder! Now, that's life style change!! Report
amazing article. thank you!!! Report
I appreciate your blog here; it's motivating. Before when I've tried to lose weight, I was very resentful--I felt like it wasn't fair (I became overweight in adulthood)--and I was angry and even rebellious that I would have to follow some depriving, strict, impossible plan to get where I wanted to be. It pissed me off. So of course, I didn't stick with it. This time around, I feel a real attitude shift. I'm not angry that I have to "start dieting." I don't feel the need to be rebellious and "break the rules." I've been released from that (it does creep in on occasion, but I can deal with it), and it's been a real relief. I've still got 30 pounds to go, so I'll keep your blog handy! Report
Great article! I'm going to try and read - and take notice of - those 10 points again and again! Report
Great blog! Thanks for sharing. Report
Wonderful advice. You hit it right on the head. I especially like this paragraph, "Changing my mentality from one of ‘dieting’, which is often perceived as deprivation, to that of healthy living, has kept me on this journey through all the trials and tribulations I have had to face over the past 4 years. Dieting, to me, means a temporary situation until I can get to a certain number on the scale only to go back to how things used to be. It is what kept me from embracing all that this great journey could offer. But no more—I am living a healthy lifestyle!"
Thank you. Report
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