You’ve worked so hard to incorporate healthy eating habits and exercise regularly, all for this moment – you’re at your goal weight and feeling really good! But what now? How do you keep the weight off? For many, maintaining weight loss can be as hard as, if not harder than, losing weight. While it’s true that many people regain weight after a weight loss effort, not all hope is lost. There are many people who have discovered how to lose weight and keep it off successfully. Resources like the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) have given us insight into how to maintain weight loss. Keep reading to find out how.
Why Does Weight Regain Happen?
Before jumping into how to maintain weight loss, it’s important to understand why it’s difficult to maintain weight loss. When we lose weight, our body responds in ways that counteract our weight loss efforts. Our hunger hormones increase, our fullness hormones decrease, and our metabolism actually slows down – a concept known as metabolic adaptation. These changes in our appetite hormones make it harder to stick to a healthy, low-calorie diet. And now that our metabolism is slower, we are burning fewer calories. Studies have shown that these changes persist even years after the weight loss effort, making it all that much more important to avoid fad diets and instead focus on healthy lifestyle changes you can stick to long-term.
How to Maintain Weight Loss
1. Continue regular physical activity and reduce sedentary time.
Based on data from the NWCR and clinical trials, the majority of people who maintain their weight loss continue to participate in regular physical activity for about an hour per day on average. The benefit of this is likely two-fold. First, regular physical activity helps to burn more calories, which offsets some of the reduction in metabolic rate that occurs with weight loss. Second, regular physical activity helps to maintain fat-free mass (lean muscle), which is helpful for boosting metabolism. Research supports that higher levels of fat-free mass have been seen in successful weight loss maintainers.
2. Maintain a nutritionally balanced diet that includes breakfast.
It’s probably no surprise that you should continue eating a generally healthy diet to maintain weight loss. But it may be somewhat surprising to learn that multiple studies have shown that weight loss maintainers typically consume breakfast. So, having a regular eating pattern that includes breakfast, eating a high number of fruits and vegetables, and limiting consumption of unhealthy food and sugar-sweetened beverages are best practices for weight loss maintenance.
Self-monitoring is a great tool for losing weight and it continues to be helpful for maintaining weight loss. There is evidence to suggest that monitoring both food intake and weight are effective behaviors for helping people to maintain their weight loss. This doesn’t mean you have to count every calorie you eat for the rest of your life, but doing some form of self monitoring on a regular basis – even just the act of stepping on the scale once per week – can be helpful for keeping your weight off. If you notice the number trending back up, then you can get more diligent with tracking your food again.
4. Have a good support system.
That can include family, friends, co-workers, healthcare providers, a group on social media – whoever helped you to get where you are, you want to continue to check in with them. At Form Health®, board certified Obesity Medicine Specialists and Registered Dietitians are here to support you no matter what stage of the weight loss journey you’re in. We understand that weight loss maintenance is difficult, so we encourage patients to continue meeting with their team long-term. And while we love celebrating the successes, we can be most helpful when there are bumps in the road to navigate, so don’t shy away from your support system when things are tough.
5. Believe in yourself.
Believing in your own ability to maintain a healthy diet, regular physical activity and weight loss is a quality seen in weight loss maintainers. This may be one of the harder things to do as we can’t just snap out fingers and change our mindset, but it’s an important step. Having this confidence in yourself affects how we perceive certain situations and respond to them. There will likely be setbacks along the way in any weight loss journey. Develop strategies for working through difficult situations or life events that are likely to throw you off. Every time you get through them, celebrate your success. This builds your confidence and makes you more resilient the next time it happens.
Keep in mind that just like with weight loss, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss maintenance, and finding a set of behaviors that works for you is what is really needed.
Can You Stop Your Diet and Still Maintain Weight Loss?
When trying to lose weight, it’s best to get out of the “diet” mindset. This term conveys the idea that there is an end to the nutritional changes you’re making to lose weight.It’s best to focus on making healthful nutritional changes that are sustainable. This doesn’t mean that you can never eat less healthful food again, but most of the time you will need to eat healthfully in order to maintain your weight loss. This includes regularly consuming fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and limiting sugar-sweetened drinks. Eating healthfully is also important for reducing the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and even some types of cancer, so it’s a good idea for multiple reasons aside from weight management.
Can You Keep Your Weight Off Forever?
You absolutely can! But it takes consistency with healthy habits. Understanding this from the beginning of your weight loss journey is important because you want to make changes that you could continue forever. Slip ups are going to happen and the scale may go up a few pounds after some over-indulgence during a holiday or vacation, but that’s where self-monitoring comes in. If you are weighing yourself and notice that you’re gaining weight, then you can implement the changes that you know work to get your weight back down again. If you’re having trouble maintaining your weight loss despite doing all of the things that helped you lose weight, it may be time to see an obesity medicine specialist to discuss treatment options. Keep in mind, there are a number of changes in your body after weight loss that promote weight regain, so it’s not your fault if you’re having difficulty sticking to your healthful diet and there are tools that may be able to help.
How Form Health Can Help You Maintain Your Weight Loss
If you’re interested in seeking medical care for weight management and working with experts to develop a personalized path that will help you reach and maintain your weight loss goals, give Form Health a try! Our insurance-covered medical weight loss program uses tools like nutrition, physical activity, mindset shifts, and FDA-approved medication, if appropriate, as parts of a comprehensive weight loss program to help you lose weight and improve your health.
Get started today by taking our quiz to see if the Form Health program is right for you.
Questions? Schedule a free call with an enrollment specialist to learn more.
About the Author: Brooke Marsico, PA-C, completed her physician assistant training at Midwestern University in 2011. She began her practice in the field of Obesity Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago where she practiced from 2016 to 2021. She went on to treat patients living with obesity at Cleveland Clinic from 2021 to 2022 prior to joining the team at Form Health. Brooke is passionate about helping patients living with obesity achieve meaningful weight loss and improve their health. Her practice focuses on individualized behavioral and pharmacological intervention to help patients reach their goals. She is also experienced in managing patients who have a history of bariatric surgery.