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If you’ve lost weight only to put it all back on again (and maybe even a little more), you’re not alone. While losing weight is hard, keeping it off can be even more difficult, with research showing only about 20% of people will maintain their weight loss in the long term.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you’re destined to regain lost weight. There are steps you can take to preserve the weight you’ve worked hard to achieve. Before discussing them, it’s helpful to understand some common pitfalls people fall into after dieting, and how healthy habits can help you maintain a healthy weight for life.
There are two main reasons why people tend to put weight back on after losing it.
The human body is programmed to function within specific limits. For example, your body temperature needs to stay at approximately 37° Celsius and prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can have serious effects on your health. This state of balance, and the body’s efforts to maintain it, is known as ‘homeostasis’.
When it comes to weight, starvation is more of an immediate survival threat than obesity, so homeostasis causes us to favour preserving energy stores (fat) over staying lean. Research also suggests that your body has a weight ‘set point’. This means your body will fight to go back to your old weight, which drives subconscious behaviours such as hunger and overeating.
Your hormones play a key role in these subconscious eating behaviours, with research showing weight loss is linked to hormonal changes that make it more difficult to keep lost weight off.
Another reason it can be hard to sustain weight loss is the tendency to return to old patterns – which caused you to gain weight in the first place – after reaching your desired weight. Examples include:
Following these 10 strategies will boost your chances of being among the one in five people who successfully maintain their weight loss.
Some medical conditions (including polycystic ovary syndrome and underactive thyroid) are directly associated with weight gain, and others (including depression and diabetes) can lead to weight management issues. Certain medications (such as some medicines used to treat seizures and mental health disorders) can also cause weight gain.
It can be extremely difficult to keep lost weight off if your body is grappling with a medical problem, so talk to your doctor about how your health or medications may be impacting your weight.
While dieting can lead to weight loss, successful long term weight management is about making sustainable lifestyle changes. Rather than focusing on quick fixes like diets, concentrate on making choices that will help to keep you fit and healthy for the rest of your life.
Rather than focusing on quick fixes like diets, concentrate on making choices that will help to keep you fit and healthy for the rest of your life.
Exercise burns calories and can offset the energy you take in from food. Importantly, several studies have shown that regular physical activity can help you keep weight off after losing it. Exercise also has proven benefits for physical and mental health. Making it part of your lifestyle is not only a great way to keep your weight under control, but it will also pay off in a host of other ways.
Muscle tissue uses more energy than other tissues and resistance training has been shown to offset loss of lean muscle during weight loss, so be sure to include some resistance exercises in your routine – such as activities using dumbbells, bands or your body weight.
If you haven’t already, gather a network of people who are committed to helping you maintain your weight loss around you. Give them permissions to keep you accountable for making healthy choices and getting you back on track after any lapses.
It’s also helpful to limit contact with anyone who tries to sabotage your success, such as people who try to lure you back into unhealthy habits.
Research has shown that people who have successfully maintained their weight loss commonly report eating breakfast. One study found that in men, breakfast consumption was positively associated with weight-loss maintenance, but more research is needed to confirm if eating breakfast was the cause of this success, and if this finding only applies to men.
Eating protein has been linked with several benefits that may assist with weight maintenance, including helping you feel full, causing your body to burn more energy, and helping you to maintain lean muscle mass.
Drinking water helps you feel full, and research has shown that drinking a glass or two before eating can lead to consuming fewer kilojoules. Drinking water has also been shown to raise your metabolic rate, which can cause you to burn more energy throughout the day.
Adequate sleep is vital for weight maintenance, with studies linking lack of sleep with obesity. This appears to be partly due to hormonal changes that lead to increased appetite and a reduced ability to feel full. Being tired may also reduce your motivation to exercise.
Another great way to stay focused and sustain your weight loss is to track your progress. Research has shown that people who successfully keep weight off tend to check it frequently, so keep a set of scales handy and weigh yourself regularly.
Monitoring your eating is another great way to stay on target. Studies indicate that people who track their food intake in a journal or online app may be more aware of their eating patterns and more likely to sustain their weight loss.
Your healthcare provider can help you stay on track by monitoring your body mass index (BMI) and addressing any other issues that may be impacting your weight. Your doctor can also refer you to other health providers for support with weight maintenance, such as a clinical dietitian or accredited exercise physiologist.
The doctors at Rosemary Health have significant experience helping people to lose weight and keep it off. They are committed to supporting you throughout your weight loss journey – from the moment you first consider losing weight through to helping you maintain a healthy weight in the long term.