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updated: 5/30/2011 10:51 PM

Maintaining weight loss a challenge

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So after months of hard work, the extra weight is finally off -- now what? Maintaining your weight loss will no doubt take focus, but the hardest part is definitely behind you. Now it comes down to permanently taking control of your health so you'll never again gain back that extra weight.

Remember your reason for losing weight in the first place. Is it still important to you? If not, find a new internal drive for success. You must want to keep your newly acquired body. Once you have a solid focus, use it to set your goals. Whether it's to stay healthy for life or simply fitting into a dress for an upcoming wedding, a goal of any kind will help you look to the future and keep you focused.

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Schedule "you time" several days every week. If taking care of yourself isn't a priority, then it could very well get pushed aside and replaced with "more important" things. The best intentions usually aren't enough to stay consistent, so unless you block off time just for you several days throughout the week, you may find yourself struggling to find time for exercise.

Your weekly workouts should be as much of a routine as your lunch break or picking the kids up from school. Three weekly strength-training sessions and two to three cardio sessions will help you maintain your muscle mass while burning fat and keeping you healthy.

Plan your meals ahead of time. If you've had previous weight-loss success, you already know how important meal planning is for consistent results. Plan out your meals based on where you'll be that particular day. If you're at the office, make sure you stock the fridge with healthy options so you aren't skipping meals or snacking out of the vending machine.

If you're traveling, make sure you know which grocery stores or restaurants have healthy food options or pack a cooler so you have what you need at your fingertips. Eating a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates for five to six meals a day will ensure a variety of nutrients and help maintain blood sugar levels, which curbs hunger and keeps your metabolism running efficiently.

Surround yourself with healthy people. If friends and family seem to be pulling you off track, get them more involved in their own health and nutrition. At the same time, get out and meet people who have healthy interests. Find a workout partner, take a weekly yoga class or join a fitness blog. Hanging out with motivating people will support positive choices and get you results.

Remember to reward your efforts when worthy. Staying healthy takes focus, but it shouldn't be stressful. Sometimes you just want that scoop of ice cream or need a massage instead of more exercise. As long as you're happy with your progress, go for it. Understand the value of moderation and know what your body can tolerate without sabotaging your efforts.

So enjoy your new body while understanding what it takes to keep it. The sooner you get these healthy habits set in place, the more fun you'll have in your new lifestyle.

• Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at PushFitnessTraining.com.

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