Maintaining Weight Loss
Benefits of maintaining weight loss
While losing weight is difficult for many people, it is even more challenging to keep the weight off. Most people who lose a large amount of weight have regained it 2 to 3 years later. One theory about regaining lost weight is that people who decrease their caloric intake to lose weight experience a drop in their metabolic rate, making it increasingly difficult to lose weight over a period of months. A lower metabolic rate may also make it easier to regain weight after a more normal diet is resumed. For these reasons, extremely low calorie diets and rapid weight loss are discouraged.
Losing no more than 1/2 to 2 pounds per week is recommended. Incorporating long-term lifestyle changes are required to increase the chance of successful long-term weight loss.
Weight loss to a healthy weight for a person's height can promote health benefits such as lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, less stress on bones and joints, and less work for the heart. Thus, it is vital to maintain weight loss to obtain health benefits over a lifetime.
Keeping extra weight off requires effort and commitment, just as losing weight does. Weight loss goals are reached by a combination of changes in diet, eating habits, exercise, and, in extreme circumstances, bariatric surgery.
Weight loss maintenance strategies
The strategies that encourage weight loss also play an important role in maintenance:
Support systems used effectively during weight loss can contribute to weight maintenance. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 55% of registry participants used some type of program to achieve their weight loss.
Physical activity plays a vital and essential role in maintaining weight loss. Studies show that even exercise that is not rigorous, such as walking and using stairs, has a positive effect. Activity that uses 1,500 to 2,000 calories per week is recommended for maintaining weight loss. Adults should try to get at least 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous level physical activity at least 3 to 4 times per week.
Diet and exercise are vital strategies for losing and maintaining weight. Ninety-four percent of the registrants in the National Weight Control Registry increased their physical activity.
Once the desired weight has been reached, the gradual addition of about 200 calories of healthy, low-fat food to daily intake may be attempted for one week to see if weight loss continues. If weight loss does continue, additional calories of healthy foods may be added to the daily diet until the right balance of calories to maintain the desired weight has been determined. It may take some time and record keeping to determine how adjusting food intake and exercise levels affect weight.
Continuing to use behavioral strategies is necessary to maintaining weight. Be aware of eating as a response to stress and use exercise, activity, or meditation to cope instead of eating.
A temporary return to old habits does not mean failure. Paying renewed attention to dietary choices and reverting to exercise can help sustain behaviors that maintain weight loss. Identifying situations such as negative moods and interpersonal difficulties and incorporating alternative methods of coping with such situations rather than eating can prevent relapses to old habits.
Weight cycling is losing and regaining weight multiple times. Some studies suggest that weight cycling, also called "yo-yo dieting," may result in some health risks, such as high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, and high cholesterol. However, these studies are not true for everybody. The best strategy is to avoid weight cycling and to maintain healthy weight through a commitment to increased physical activity and healthy eating.
One myth about weight cycling is that a person who loses and regains weight will have more difficulty losing weight again and maintaining it compared to a person who has not gone through a weight-loss cycle. Most studies show that weight cycling does not affect the rate at which the body burns fuel and a previous weight cycle does not influence the ability to lose weight again. In addition, weight cycling does not increase the amount of fat tissue or increase fat distribution around the stomach.
Always consult your doctor for more information.
- Foster, Sarah, RN, MPH
- MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician