Maintaining Weight Loss


Benefits of maintaining weight loss

While losing weight is difficult for many people, it is even more challenging to keep weight off. Most individuals who lose a large amount of weight regain it two to three 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 one to two pounds per week is recommended. Incorporating long-term lifestyle changes will 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 changes in diet, eating habits, exercise, and, in extreme circumstances, 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. A study conducted by the National Weight Control Registry found people who lost weight and continued bimonthly support group meetings for one year maintained their full weight loss. Study participants who did not attend support group meetings regained almost half of the weight.
  • Physical activity plays a vital 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. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, and muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups on two or more days per week. 
  • Diet and exercise are vital strategies for losing and maintaining weight. A study by the National Weight Control Registry found that nearly all of 784 study participants who had lost at least 30 pounds, and had maintained that loss for one year or longer, used diet and exercise to not only lose the weight, but also to maintain the weight loss.
  • 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 can help maintain weight. Be aware of eating as a response to stress and use exercise, activity, or meditation to cope instead of eating.

A return to old habits does not mean failure. Paying renewed attention to dietary choices and 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

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 conclusive. The best strategy is to avoid weight cycling and to maintain healthy weight through 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.