How to break the diet cycle

Anyone who has lost weight only to regain it knows how frustrating the fluctuation cycle can be. Fear not: from setting goals to shifting your mindset, there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure a healthy weight is sustainable.

About weight fluctuation


Losing weight and keeping the weight off are two different things. The latter seems like it would be easy: you’ve slimmed down and have an idea of what to eat and how to exercise to stay healthy. Yet studies reveal that most people who lose weight will see the kilos creep back on over time.

According to psychologist Glenn Mackintosh, the reason lies with the strict ‘rules’ we often follow when trying to lose weight. “When you think in a rigid way about eating and exercise, it will help you lose weight in the short term, but it’s also the biggest sign that you’ll regain it later,” he explains, adding that emotional eating and poor body image round out the top three catalysts for weight fluctuation and regaining weight. “That’s why it’s so important to develop sustainable habits and create a healthy relationship with food and physical movement, rather than focusing on weight loss alone.”


Why did I regain weight?

Think back to the last time you lost weight. Did you eat foods you labelled ‘good’ and avoid those that were ‘bad’? Did you eat according to a schedule, rather than when you were hungry? Did you exercise for the sake of obligation, as opposed to enjoyment?

People who succeed in maintaining their weight loss take a more intuitive approach to nutrition and movement, Mackintosh explains. “Forget the food rules and learn to focus on your intuition,” he advises. “What foods are going to make you feel satisfied, energised and full, as opposed to sluggish and bloated?”

Likewise, exercise should be a natural and pleasurable component of your routine—not something you have to put up with. “Research shows that people who lose weight and keep it off start by doing lots of different types of exercise,” Mackintosh says. “By the end of their journey, they’re only doing two or three, because they’ve gone through a process of finding what’s right for them. When you enjoy exercise, you’ve got a good relationship with it and it takes half the willpower to do.”

It’s a simple formula to break the diet cycle —eat intuitively, exercise happily—yet successful long-term weight loss is also determined by your mindset. “Think of a health goal then ask yourself how important your headspace is, as a percentage, to help you get there,” Mackintosh suggests. “Typically, when I ask this question, responses range from 50 to 100 per cent, yet most people spend zero time training their mindset. It’s only when they look at the mental elements where they need to do a bit of work—whether it’s their confidence with exercise, body image or attitude towards food—that they’ll get completely different results.”


How can I keep the weight off long term?

You’re eating intuitively, have found a workout worth setting your alarm for and shifted your mindset—what next? Michelle Celandar, Director—Program & Science at WW Australia and New Zealand, believes that setting goals is a great way to sustain weight-loss motivation, because once you have a clear purpose, you can track your progress and celebrate your achievements along the way. “I encourage people to set goals that prioritise their overall health and push them to live a rich and meaningful life,” she adds.

Make goals that follow the SRRAS technique (Specific, Reasonable, Relevant, Active and Short Term). “For example, instead of saying you want to get fitter and then occasionally heading to the gym, you could give yourself a clear target of running five kilometres without stopping within the next three months,” she suggests.

“Your approach for doing this might be jogging twice a week while listening to a motivating app in the gym (such as Aaptiv, available through the WW app), or meeting a friend in the park.”


What tips can help me plan ahead?


Planning ahead can keep you on track with food-related goals, too. Let’s say you’re aiming to eat less takeaway: by creating a meal plan and hitting the supermarket with a shopping list each week, you’ll know what you’ll be eating at every meal and will have all the fresh ingredients on hand to prepare them. You could also use the WW app to find recipe inspiration and track what you’re eating (another proven way to help make your weight loss sustainable for the long term).

Finally, never underestimate the power of support, whether it comes from friends, family or the WW Community. “Weight management is a team sport,” says Celandar. “You wouldn’t build a house by yourself, and making healthy lifestyle changes is no different. It takes consistent focus—and when you receive support it empowers you to keep prioritising your health.


How the WW program can help

With the WW program, everything is still on the menu! The science-backed SmartPoints® system is easy to use and encourages you to make healthier food choices, while continuing to eat what you love. Embracing the three pillars of food, movement and mindset, WW helps you develop healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits. Each week, the program covers topics relating to meal planning, goal setting, shifting your mindset and more—giving you the tools you need to lose weight and keep it off for good.