Updated: May 5, 2021
How You Can End the Cycle for Good
When it comes to maintaining weight loss, you cannot control a few of the complicating factors, such as your age, sex, and genetics. However, you can control important health behaviors such as your food selections, how much you exercise, and how often you stand or move throughout the day to make sure you don’t keep regaining weight.
Losing weight is only half the battle and for many people, the bigger challenge is keeping the weight off long-term. This article describes a few common reasons why people regain weight and tips on how you can prevent it from happening to you.
Blame it on Your Brain
The truth is that, if you keep regaining weight and want to be successful at keeping weight off, the cards are stacked against you because your brain and body are hard-wired to regain lost weight. This, combined with the abundance of high-calorie foods available today, makes it all incredibly easy to put the pounds back on.
After you lose weight, your metabolism slows down which causes you to burn fewer calories than would be expected, even when you’re at rest. This happens because your brain senses your fat storages are low and sends signals to the muscles to become more efficient in using energy causing you to burn fewer calories.
On top of this metabolic slowdown, multiple systems in your body undergo changes that affect your desire to eat. For example, after losing weight, your appetite increases causing you to eat more to feel satiated and you may choose to consume higher calorie foods. Areas of the brain involved in the ability to resist eating are also less active, which could make it difficult to choose healthier food choices.
Fell into the Short-term Mindset
One of the biggest reasons people keep regaining weight is due to having a short-term mindset instead of a long-term vision. In order to successfully achieve weight loss long-term, you must change your lifestyle. A big mistake people commonly make after achieving their weight loss goal is thinking that they can go back to eating the way they did prior to beginning their diet and not exercise as much.
To be honest, weight maintenance is just as hard as weight loss. The changes you make in your nutrition and exercise regimen do not stop once you hit a certain number on the scale. This is why it is so important for you to make changes that are sustainable for you long-term.
All or Nothing Mindset
It is normal for a fitness journey to have a few bumps in the roads and it is rarely ever a smooth ride for most people. There will be days when you hit all of your goals and there will be days when don’t. However, when people have an all or nothing mentality to maintaining their weight it could lead them down a slippery slope very quickly. When people have this type of mindset, it means that they are either doing every single thing “right” when it comes to eating, exercising, getting enough sleep, etc. for their health or once they get off track, they tend to make everything an unhealthy choice. For example, if a person with an all or nothing mentality misses an early morning workout they may think, “Since I already missed my workout earlier, I will have pizza and ice cream tonight.”
Having an all or nothing mindset can negatively impact the success of weight maintenance because any type of setback will derail all other choices. Instead of going off the rails after one unhealthy mishap, recognize that you have control in your other choices to be healthy and you can get back on track without punishing yourself or getting stuck.
You Assume All of the Weight You Lost Was Fat Loss
Most people lose weight quickly on fad diets because it’s likely that most of the weight lost is from water and lean muscle, not body fat. With this type of weight gain it can be very easy to put the weight right back on again. Therefore, people who go from one fad diet to the next tend to keep regaining weight and be unsuccessful in achieving long-term weight loss.
Losing fat mass may take longer, but it usually tends to not fluctuate as quickly as losing water weight.
How to Maintain Weight Loss Long-Term
As mentioned before, you already know that a body at a higher weight burns more calories than the same body at a lighter weight because there is less mass to move around and keep alive. Muscle mass is directly linked to resting metabolic rate, as this tissue requires more calories to keep you alive. When lean muscle mass makes up a significant portion of total weight loss, your resting metabolic rate takes a nosedive. However, when you build a weight-loss program that promotes weight training to increase muscle mass, this can potentially offset the decline in metabolism.
Achieving successful weight maintenance is absolutely possible. Below are a few tips to help you maintain your weight-loss goals:
Stay Consistent Both with Your Activity Levels and Eating Plan
When it comes to reaching goals, whether it is graduating from college, accepting a job offer, or buying a new home, it usually calls for a celebration. Similarly, when people achieve their weight-loss goals, they stop what they’re doing, celebrate and subsequently revert back to their old habits. Unfortunately, that is a perfect recipe for weight gain. Keep in mind, you no longer burn the same amount of calories as you did at a heavier weight, so make sure to recalculate your calorie needs and make adjustments to your nutrition and exercise routine.
Build Your Muscles
As mentioned earlier, muscle mass is directly tied to your resting metabolic rate. Having more muscle mass means your resting metabolic rate will be higher. As a result, strength or resistance training is the only way that you will create new, metabolically active muscle tissue. When it comes to weight maintenance, weight training is equally, if not more, important and beneficial as aerobic conditioning.
Continue to Set Goals
It is beneficial to set both long-term and short-term goals while making sure that they are both realistic and achievable. Goals can be about exercise (trying something new), nutrition (Switching up macronutrient percentages, decrease sugar, or stick with a whole-food diet) or training for a race. You might also consider setting goals outside of the nutrition and exercise realm, such as listening to an inspirational podcast. When you are having fun and are happy, you reduce your production of the stress hormone cortisol, reducing the risk of keep regaining weight and allowing you the ability to be successful with maintaining your weight.
Practice Mindful and Intuitive Eating
Mindful eating means that you are present when you eat and eliminate distractions such as; television, emails, social media, or surfing the web. When you focus on your meal, you actually pay more attention to the taste, texture, temperature and aroma of the food that you are eating. Also, by paying attention to what you are putting in your mouth, you will be more likely to stop when you are feeling full.
Have A Plan
Take the time to write down your action plan for each week by identifying daily actions that will help you reach your goals. By having a set plan in place, you will be more likely to follow it and be successful.
Create A List of Non-Food Coping Strategies
Emotional eating is extremely common and causes people to turn to food when they are feeling sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, bored, lonely or even happy. Unfortunately, the foods that most people reach for are salty, crunchy, fatty foods and sweets. When you are in an emotionally neutral state, develop a list of non-food coping mechanisms that can make you feel better. For example, you could go on a walk, talk with a friend or family member, watch a favorite movie, clean, or journaling.
Find Social Support
Going through a challenging time while also feeling alone is usually not a good combination. It can be both comforting and rewarding to reach out to someone your trust to express your thoughts and feelings. You will not only feel better but will also be amazed by an increased sense of motivation.
Eat Whole Foods
After hitting your goal weight, you might feel like having an extra few slices of pizza or another slice of pie will not make a big difference. However, those high-calorie food choices will add up quickly if you aren’t careful. Remember that it took a solid nutrition plan to get you to your goal weight and you can’t just toss that out the window entirely. Adding real, whole, clean foods, such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, clean complex carbs and plenty of water is what will keep you at your maintenance weight and will reduce the risk that you keep regaining weight.
Stay Within 3 Pounds
It is not ideal to constantly weigh yourself, but once-a-week you should check your weight to make sure you are staying on track. If the scale indicates more than a 3-pound gain, it’s time to evaluate yourself and figure out what you’ve been doing differently. Are you tracking your food? Did you get enough sleep? How is your stress level? All of these factors could play a role in weight gain.
Traveling, holidays, celebrations, weddings, and reunions are all an exciting and fun time, but they typically have an abundance of food available. Learning how to navigate these food environments and finding balance is quite difficult, but it is doable. To avoid overindulging, make sure to go in with a plan and stick to it. For example, plan to eat a healthy snack at home before attending the event or bring a healthy snack with you in case there are limited options available.
Did you know that Up to 60% of the human adult body is water? As for how much water you should be drinking each day, a general rule is to drink (in ounces) half of your body weight (in pounds). For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (150 x 1/2 = 75), you need to drink 75 ounces (approximately 10 cups of water). Add 1 cup if you live in a hot climate and another cup when exercising and sweating.
Manage Your Stress
Stress plays a big role in weight regain. The main stress hormone is cortisol and when it is high, due to stress, it causes your body to become more insulin resistant. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone, so the more you have floating around your bloodstream, the more fat you are likely to store, especially around your abdominal region. There are many stress-management techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, walking, coloring, exercising, and laughing.
Sleep 7-9 Hours
When you sleep fewer than 7 hours per night, there is a disruption in the production of 2 main hormones that control hunger and fullness. Poor sleep causes your brain to produce more ghrelin, which makes you feel hungrier, and less leptin, which helps make you feel full. A salad or scrambled eggs likely do not sound too appetizing when you are feeling hungry and tired. This is what it’s like when ghrelin and leptin are out of whack. To avoid this from happening, make sure
There is not a single person in this world who has ever said that losing weight and keeping it off is easy. However, it is possible to lose weight and it is even more possible to keep it off. If you keep regaining weight and are struggling to maintain your maintenance weight, you could benefit from working with a certified Nutrition Coach.
A Nutrition Coach can help you figure out the root cause of regaining the weight and support you in making changes to create consistency. Your health should always be a top priority and by partnering with a Nutrition Coach, you can learn how you to live a sustainable long-term healthy lifestyle.