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6. Develop a Healthy Selfishness

As Fletcher counseled overweight clients, she noticed that many women, in particular, had a difficult time putting themselves first. All day long, they'd help their spouse, family, friends, and co-workers. At the end of the day, these women were exhausted. And they often turned to food. "The only 'nice' thing they did for themselves was eat," she says.

"People who lose weight and keep it off have developed a kind of healthy selfishness," she says. That means saying no sometimes and putting yourself first at least sometimes.

One woman who learned ''healthy selfishness" told Fletcher she would do anything to stay on track, including carrying baked potatoes in her flight bag to avoid having to eat airport food.

The healthy selfishness helps, too, when dining out, Stettner says. "Pick a place that has the kind of food you want to eat."

7. Fat-Proof Your Environment

Even if you're committed to following a new, sensible eating plan, it can be difficult when, say, your teens' tortilla chips fall out of the cupboard every time you open it.

That's why it can help to "fat-proof" your environment as much as you can, says Stettner. "Get rid of 'off-program' or impulse foods at home and work," he says.

Call a family meeting and brainstorm options, he says. Say your teen can't exist without tortilla chips. You might decide as a family that the tortilla chip lovers keep their own stash, not in the kitchen, out of sight. This allows the person trying to lose to feel more in control, Stettner says.

8. Pick the Brains of Healthy-Weight People

Stevens advises those who need to lose 100 pounds to get insight from people who are at a healthy weight. He tells them: "Talk to people who are maintaining a steady weight, who have maintained it for three or four years, and who are your age."

Then ask them how they stay that way, he says. "You may be amazed," he says. Many overweight people think people at a healthy weight don't have to work at it, but those maintaining a healthy weight typically tell an unexpected story. It's an ongoing effort to stay lean. "They are careful what they eat; they pay attention every day," Steven says.

Hearing this may help those with lots to lose understand that life is going to be different if the weight is going to stay off, Stevens says.

Those who have lost substantial amounts of weight and kept it off say they stay true to their eating plan and their exercise plan. Wade Wingler, 37, of Danville, Ind., an executive with Easter Seals, took off 100 pounds, going from 317 pounds to 217 pounds.

"I do yoga every day," he says. He also does long-distance bicycling and follows a sensible eating plan.

Linda Thacker, 60, of Norfolk, Va., lost 120 pounds and has kept it off for 16 years. Healthy eating and working out regularly are habits now. "I do Jazzercise, speed walking, bicycling, and the Stairmaster," she says. "I try to exercise every day, [though] I don't always make it." But if a few days go by without working out, she gets right back to it.

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