Break out the confetti and balloons (no cake, please).
This month I celebrate the four-year anniversary for maintaining my 150-pound weight loss; a journey that began back in 2005.
Losing the weight took me 20 months and although that took diligent perseverance, my weight loss turned out to be easier than keeping it off.
If you've lost weight and worked at keeping it off, you know now true that is.
Here are some things I've learned during these last four years.
Weigh yourself regularly, no shirking, to stay in touch with reality. Over the past 48 months, there were times when I did not want to get on my scale, but did; sometimes finding unjustified fear, other times justified (one month I'd gained five pounds). Two months ago, I returned to weighing myself every week; too much can go wrong in a month.
Devise an action plan for those times when your weight ticks upward. This is where a food diary can play a key role. Look back at the previous week, or month, for trends in how your food plan may have changed (holidays tend to be a particularly daunting, yet clue-filled time).
Up a pound in a week or month?
Wait until the next weigh-in, since it might just be water weight. Keep in mind that 2 cups of water weighs 1 pound.
If you're up another pound at the next weigh-in, trim 200 calories a day. The scale should show positive results over the next four to five weeks.
Using cooking sprays and nonfat margarine could make your calorie reduction easier than you think.
Kick all candy to the curb and you may see miraculous results.
Hit the road or the workout center. I've been working out three days a week, over an hour each time, for 4½ years. Exercise builds and maintains muscle (calorie-burners), but also makes me hungry.
My solution: a protein shake with some fruit at workout's end. That shake takes care of my hunger, and seems to support my workout's results.
Keep a close eye on sugars and refined carbohydrates. Studies show that consumed sugars and highly-refined carbohydrates, depending on their constitution and quantities consumed, may be stored as fat instead of used to sustain muscle.
I limit myself to a small piece (about ½ ounce) of solid, dark chocolate once or twice a week to satisfy my chocolate urge and that only adds about 75 calories to my food plan and tastes sensational. Saying never-again to any food only makes me want it more.
Maintain a food plan that's higher in protein. In the past four years I've tinkered with my food plan's carbs, fat and protein levels and found that protein fills me up more with less, and stays with me longer than those other nutrients. Lean meats have fewer calories than fattier meats; delivering more bang for my protein buck.
Don't obsess. Small weight gains (such as 2 or 3 ounces) can be caused by all sorts of indefinable reasons. I've seldom weighed the same in sequential weigh-ins, and learned that worrying about being up or down a little changes nothing.
Lastly, I want to thank you for the encouraging emails you've sent over the last six years as I've gone through my weight loss and maintenance. You have helped me get here today.
Try this recipe: Considering a higher protein meal dinner for tonight? How about this? The marinade, inspired by Martin Yan, makes the chicken and vegetables sing a tasty Asian tune.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.