You’ve Lost Weight, Now How Do You Keep It Off?

by Brittany Risher
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You’ve Lost Weight, Now How Do You Keep It Off?

Losing weight is one thing, keeping the weight off is another. We’ve all heard about yo-yo dieting, know a friend who yo-yos and have probably bobbled ourselves. But it is possible to stay at your new, lower weight — and the more you’ve lost, the more likely you may be to maintain, according to a new study.

In this 2017 study, researchers split 177,000 adults into four categories: those who lost less than 5% of their BMI, those who lost 5–10%, those who lost 10–15% and those who lost more than 15% after six months. At the two-year follow-up, the people in the last group — the “high weight loss” group — were least likely to regain more than half of what they’d lost.

Here are four ways to help maintain your weight loss:

1. UNDERSTAND IT’S A LIFETIME COMMITMENT

“Weight loss isn’t an event, it’s a process,” says Sofia Rydin-Gray, PhD, a clinical psychologist and behavioral health director at Duke Diet and Fitness Center. “It’s not only about food and exercise — it’s about behaviors, emotions and our way of thinking. People who keep the weight off are able to stay focused and commit to prioritizing their health.”

This commitment may include staying active, watching fewer than 10 hours of TV a week, getting adequate sleep and eating breakfast, according to researchers with the National Weight Loss Registry.

2. PLAN REGULAR WEIGH-INS

“You have to continue the behaviors that helped you lose weight in the first place,” explains dietitian Georgie Fear, RD. “We look forward to being able to liberalize our diet and ease up on workouts after losing weight, but you can’t go overboard.” And that’s exactly why the changes you make while dieting need to be ones you can live with for life.

Another habit both the National Weight Loss Registry and experts recommend is continuing to weigh in on a regular basis. “I discourage daily weigh-ins because then you’re too focused on the scoreboard and not on the plays going on the court — what you’re choosing for lunch and dinner,” says Fear, who, along with Rydin-Gray, recommends getting on the scale once a week.

If you notice a significant gain, ask yourself why this happened — you likely know you were stressed, skipped your morning walks and turned to mint chocolate chip rather than calling your friend to talk it out. Then reflect on what helped you lose weight before. Refocus and recommit to those habits, and you’ll get back on track.


READ MORE > 5 PITFALLS THAT LEAD TO WEIGHT GAIN


3. REMEMBER WHY YOU WANT TO BE HEALTHY

If it’s hard to return to healthier habits, take some time to recall your motivation for losing weight in the first place. “You can’t just be motivated by the scale,” Rydin-Gray says. “You really need to drill down and have frequent reminders of why this is important for you.”

Know that life may not be what you expected when you decided to lose weight. “Sometimes during the weight-loss phase, we have this idea that, ‘Wow, when I get to my goal weight, things will be better in my life — better at work, my romantic situation, I’ll have a great social life,’” Rydin-Gray says. “Then when we get to the maintenance phase, we realize life is pretty much the same as when it was when we were heavier.”

4. TURN TO YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK

One thing that can help all of us maintain an optimistic outlook and manage stress — and keep weight off — is a strong support network. Having people you can turn to provides accountability and helps you stick to your healthy lifestyle. “You need supportive people who can lift you up and bring you back to feeling confident,” Rydin-Gray says.

It’s particularly essential that anyone you share a kitchen with is on your side. “It’s so difficult to overcome a cookie habit when the person you live with has cookies every night,” Fear says. Beyond that, your support system can be anyone from friends and coworkers to dietitians and online communities. “Many people don’t have an in-real-life circle of friends that encourage them to be kind to themselves or try a new vegetable recipe,” Fear adds. So if you can find that virtually, take advantage of it.

No matter what, know you can keep the weight off. “There’s a mindset shift where taking care of yourself feels better and more important than giving in to any cravings or slacking off,” Rydin-Gray says. That may sound crazy when you start the weight-loss journey, but once you reach your goal and feel how good it feels, you’ll know it’s better than any ‘high’ a food can give you.

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  • Douglas Clarke

    I have lost 32 lbs over the last year. Not an easy thing to do when you have copd and emphysema which require you to be on oxygen 24/7. My ability to exercise is almost nonexistent. I am now at the weight my doctor thought would be best.
    I have found that by measuring my portions just as I did when dieting is most useful. If you start eyeballing measurements pretty soon what was a half cup seems to enlarge to 3/4 cup and like it or not just keeps on growing. I find by entering everything that goes in my mouth in MyFitnessPal just as I did when dieting makes me more aware of what I am eating. Also I have learned that a treat might taste good but is the momentary pleasure worth the damage it can cause if indulged in too often.
    Hopefully I will not slide into bad habits again. I do feel much better which is a strong incentive to keep trying to do what I know is good for me.

  • Lori B

    This was the first article that actually says keeping the weight off is possible. That is very helpful as I close in on my goal of getting 88 lbs of extra weight off. I needed to read this. My plan was to continue to do everything the same. I can do it.

  • jcgadfly

    Managed to keep off most of my weight for three years (started at 350, currently weigh around 200) . Like to lose about 15-17 more but I’m trying to be happy with keeping most of me away…

  • Douglas Clarke

    Actually I still require the same amount of oxygen but don’t lose my breath as quickly and have much more energy. I quit smoking 32 years ago and the doctor feels my problem stemmed mostly from my work. I was a welder almost all of my working life. Thank you for commenting.

  • Paco

    Recovering from colon resection surgery as a result of complicated diverticulitis, and have lost 37 Lbs as a result. I would like to get back up to about 200 Lbs and stay there, but I can’t exercise for at least another 6 weeks.

    How do I eat for health and not pack on unwanted pounds until I can exercise?