How to Stop Regaining the Weight You Lost

  |   Health, Self Improvement, Weight Loss, Well-being, Wellness   |   No comment

New studies reveal the most effective ways to maintain weight loss

ou’ve done your research, you’ve been eating healthier, you’ve been exercising more and you’ve successfully lost those pounds. Congratulations! But just when you’re about to celebrate, you realize you have to keep up with the hard work to maintain the weight loss.

Losing weight is hard, keeping it off is harder.


Research has shown that maintaining weight loss in the long term is difficult and regaining weight is the norm, with over 50% of the lost weight being regained within two years.

Is losing weight just a futile effort? Not if you carry out sustainable lifestyle changes. Here are some science-backed ways to maintain your weight loss:

Forming strong healthy habits is key

As you know, habits are powerful forces. The stronger the habit, the more automatic the behavior will be, hence the less effort you have to put in to keep doing that behavior.

So it makes a lot of sense to form habits (for example exercising regularly or eating vegetables at every meal) so that these behaviors become something you naturally do consistently, instead of something you have to put in a lot of effort to do.

In a study comparing people who are successfully keeping their weight off compared to weight-stable obese participants, they found that the strongest difference between the two groups was the strength of their healthy habits.

Researchers also found that the more you persist in practicing specific behaviors in the same situation every time(for example going for a 30 minute run before breakfast), the more it would “produce automaticity, allowing the behaviors to occur with less intentional effort.” The study pointed out that

“WLMs (weight-loss maintainers) who maintained their weight the longest reported the greatest habit strength, and greater habit strength for healthy eating was related to less perceived effort to maintain their reduced body weight.”

In other words, if you make it a habit to be healthy, it gets easier over time, until it takes you no effort at all.

Monitor yourself consistently

Self-monitoring your progress through habits such as setting food intake goals every day, recording daily caloric intake as well as measuring food were found to be habits that differentiated those who maintained weight loss from those who did not.

Setting regular small goals and measuring your intake helps you be more mindful of what you are putting in your body. It makes you more accountable for your actions.

It’s all in the mindset

study also differentiated weight-loss specific behaviors from weight-maintenance specific behaviors. Unsurprisingly, most of it had to do with your mindset. I’ve highlighted some tips below to get into the right mindset based on the study:

Tip #1: Focus on what you’ve achieved

One main difference between a weight loss journey versus a weight maintenance journey is that weight loss produces much more visible results. You can see the number on the scale going down, you feel your clothes are getting looser, and you hear your friends giving you compliments on your improved physique. These changes were what kept you motivated to continue your journey.

But after you’ve lost the weight, nothing much changes anymore. There are not as many tangible rewards to keep you motivated. This is why it is important to remember the importance and magnitude of what you’ve achieved.

  • Compare before and after photos to see how much you’ve changed
  • List down how your health has improved e.g. reduced blood pressure, less risk of heart disease
  • Notice how your life has changed for the better since the weight loss e.g. improved relationships, more confidence, happier moods
  • Acknowledge that keeping the amount of weight off is as much of an achievement as losing it

Tip #2: Learn how to cope with slip-ups

Let’s face it, we can’t be perfect all the time. There are times when we go out to dinner with our friends and end up eating a week’s worth of junk food. Then you go home wrecked with guilt and self-hate that you have to eat a tub of ice-cream just to make yourself feel better again (even just for a while).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Successful people who maintain their weight anticipate and plan these “slip-ups”. For example, if you know you’re going on a Friday night out with friends, you can manage it by eating a healthy breakfast or slipping in some exercise after lunch. The study recommends:

“Proactively developing plans and practicing strategies for managing and coping with lapses; problem solving to identify challenges, formulate solutions, and evaluate options; and building strategies for non-food activities and coping mechanisms, such as engaging in hobbies or mindfulness activities, to minimize counterproductive coping mechanisms, such as emotional eating.”

If you gain a few pounds, manage it instead of giving up. Find something (non-food related) that you love to do to make yourself feel better, pick yourself up, and continue your efforts with a smile on your face.

Tip #3: Find your motivation

Why do so many people find it easier to adhere to strict diets such as vegan, kosher, and halal, but so hard to stick to ketogenic, low-carb or paleo diets? The reason is that the former group of diets are tied to deeper values and beliefs (such as ethical, moral, and religious beliefs). In comparison, following a low-carb diet would most likely mean very little to you apart from a diet to lose weight.

Hence, it is important to find out what your motivation buried in your heart is. Dig deep. Only do things that you find highly meaningful and that you truly love doing. Drown out all the other noises. Listen to what your heart tells you (as cheesy as it sounds). The study advised that:

“Whereas “white knuckling” and external, controlled motivations, such as directives from a spouse or healthcare provider, may lead to short-term weight loss, longer term sustained motivation is more likely when patients take ownership of their behavioral changes and goals, and engage in them because they are deeply meaningful or enjoyable.”

lthough weight loss is an amazing feat in itself, the challenge lies in keeping it off.

It requires long-term commitment and planning, consistent habits and most importantly being ready for whatever obstacles that lie ahead. It means not giving up at the encounter of a slip-up, but having a strategy to overcome it.

It also means forgiving yourself and staying true to who you are. Embed your health efforts into your whole self and your identity. Making it a part of yourself will turn it into a sweeter journey.

It also means forgiving yourself and staying true to who you are. Embed your health efforts into your whole self and your identity. Making it a part of yourself will turn it into a sweeter journey.

Nadiah M. Noor
  • By Nadiah M. Noor
February 17, 2019
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