How to Develop a Sustainable Fitness Plan
Reviewed & Approved by Dr. Larry
For many people, the greatest challenge in their weight loss and fitness journey isn’t necessarily shedding the pounds or getting healthier — it’s sustaining and maintaining that positive change. When reading an article that followed the early contestants of the reality show, The Biggest Loser, Dr. Larry was surprised to find that the participants weren’t able to keep off all the weight they had lost.
“The main winner had lost 240 pounds,” Dr. Larry says. “He went from 430 down to 190 pounds. Six years later, he put back 100 pounds. It was kind of disappointing.”
Why can’t we keep the weight off and stick to our fitness goals once we’ve finally made progress? Dr. Larry says a lack of sustainability in many fitness plans is often to blame. He thinks that was certainly the case for the contestants of The Biggest Loser who struggled to keep their weight down after the show.
“This guy was exercising for seven hours a day,” Dr. Larry said of the main winner’s time on The Biggest Loser. “It’s not realistic. It’s not sustainable. It’s a reality TV crash diet. It puts them in a place afterwards where it’s really hard to keep the weight off.”
The Key to Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Dr. Larry asserts that the key to maintaining progress and a healthy lifestyle is to create a sustainable fitness plan that’s going to work for you. “What can you do for the long haul?” he says. “What can you commit to?”
For example, if you love basketball, make sure to get out and play regularly in addition to those ‘less fun’ workouts. You’ll be more likely to commit to staying active consistently if you’re doing something you love, like meeting friends for a twice-weekly game to hold you accountable.
This also applies to eating healthily. If you’re someone whose favorite foods are all carbs all the time, a low-carb, high-protein diet simply isn’t going to be realistic or sustainable for you. Instead, focusing on swapping for healthier carbs, portion control, and increasing your fruits and vegetables in each meal may be a more sustainable diet for you than a fad diet. Similarly, a meat-lover isn’t going to be able to sustain a vegan diet, but exchanging fatty and fried red meats for healthier lean meats like fish or chicken is sustainable for the long haul.
Dr. Larry reminds patients that when you lose weight, “everybody’s going to plateau,” at some point. That’s when you need to think about why you’re really doing this beyond the weight loss benefits. For you, this could be preventing a genetic predisposition to heart disease, staying mentally sharp in old age, or reaching your individual goals. Dr. Larry calls this source of motivation “The Big Why,” which he explores in depth in his book, The Gentleman’s Diet.
Sustainability equals success in Dr. Larry’s opinion.
“Connecting to your Big Why, figuring that out, and then integrating that into your lifestyle — that’s the key to success,” he says.