Take a Moderate Approach Chapter 17

Maintaining a Better Life

Face the challenges that remain after you have developed more healthful, balanced habits


Challenge the Conventional Wisdom

More exercise and less food is the universal prescription for losing weight. But in a survey of 4,000 people who had successfully lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year, the answer wasn't so simple. Some had lost weight without exercising at all. Some exercised, but didn't change their diet very much. Successful “losers” followed high-fat or high-carb or liquid diets. They found many paths to their healthy weight, which suggests that there is no cure-all. Finding the plan you can stick with is most important. READ MORE

The 4,000 weight-loss maintainers are members of the National Weight Loss Registry. The members achieved their success by dozens of different methods. However, their methods for keeping the weight off have many similarities. Overall, 78% eat breakfast every day, 75% weigh themselves at least weekly, 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week and 90% exercise an average of at least an hour a day.

Former smokers and drug users maintain their new lifestyle with a wide range of strategies. Life in recovery from an addiction requires that you find satisfying ways to spend the time you formerly spent drinking, smoking or taking drugs. What works for one former addict may not work for the next. Since there is not a commonly successful approach, people in recovery often find that support of a peer group or an individual counselor is extremely helpful. LESS


Your Body and Brain

If you have quit using an addictive drug or alcohol, you may have sustained some permanent brain chemical changes. When faced with stress or depression, you may not react the way a person who has never used drugs would. You may be tempted to backslide. If you have lost excess body fat, you still have those fat cells, standing empty but ready to pack the fat back on. Your body and brain will never be exactly as they were before your behavior went out of control. Knowing these realities, and planning the best way to cope with them, will be key to maintaining your new, healthful lifestyle. READ MORE

Using an addictive substance causes clear physical changes in your brain. The receptors that connect with a substance and trigger the joy of a neurotransmitter-induced high proliferate. The longer you use drugs, smoke or drink, the more of those receptors you will have. Receptors go dormant when the abused substance is not available, but starting to use again will reactivate them. Good feelings that coincided with eating certain foods or taking pleasurable substances are so tightly woven into our memories, the sensory power of even thinking about our old behaviors can bring on a strong craving.

The environmental cues that accompanied former habits will be unavoidable sometimes, too. The pal you used to drink with, the stressful work events that triggered an eating binge, the corner where you used to smoke. Your memories of indulging your cravings are connected to places and people that are still in your life. Sometimes the hardest part about making a change is reshaping the social world that your old behavior existed within. Some smokers have had to avoid their smoking friends during the early phases of quitting, to avoid temptation. Users of illicit drugs may have to permanently change their sphere of friends to get away from other users.

Prepare a list of places you will avoid, people you may have to refrain from seeing for awhile, and other challenges that are likely to come up. Then start another list of what you will do instead: New hobbies or sports you have wanted to try, something you'd like to learn about, people you would like to spend more time with. Make sure that it is at least as long as your “avoid” list, and plant to refer to it when cravings hit. LESS


Join Forces

Many successful weight–losers, former smokers and former drug users swear by having a group of kindred spirits to help. Not every person who tries to give up bad habits is temperamentally suited to group support. In fact, the National Weight Loss Registry found that men don't seek this kind of support as often as women do. But 12-step programs, group counseling for smokers and fitness classes aim to draw on a social network for moral support. READ MORE

There are multiple ways to connect with others trying to improve their lives. If you can, find out from your doctor what reliable resources exist in your area. Many profit-driven drug cessation programs, diets and other interventions simply have no proven track record. Finding a program that is administered through a medical teaching institution is ideal, but not everyone has such a resource.

Your community may have specific groups that meet to discuss sobriety, weight-loss or other life improvements. Here are some national organizations to learn about if you don't know where to begin.

Alcoholics Anonymous
You can learn more about the program's history and approach, and find a group that meets near you.

Weight Watchers
Find a local meeting and learn this group's approach.

Gamblers Anonymous
Locate a local meeting and learn about this group's mission.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Before you seek a support group, you must be certain that you have ended your addiction to an illicit drug. Read about symptoms and signs of addiction on this website, then speak to a medical professional about other resources you will need, including social support. LESS

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.