Maintaining Weight Loss

Maintaining Weight Loss

Maintaining weight loss can be a struggle for many people, especially if they have lost weight through a ‘quick-fix’ fad diet, instead of making healthy lifestyle changes.

Indeed, research has found that only 20 per cent of people who started dieting when they were overweight managed to keep the weight off in the long run. [206]

A proper diet should be seen as a change to your eating habits that will ensure good health in the long-term, not just rapid, short-term weight loss.

Exercise regularly

One of the easiest ways to maintain your weight loss is to take part in regular exercise, as it helps you to achieve energy balance. This is when you burn the same number of calories each day that you consume, resulting in your weight remaining constant.

Exercise burns calories and also increases your metabolism, with both of these playing an important role in helping you achieve an energy balance. [211] [212]

Try and aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day, which is the amount required for weight maintenance according to research. [213] We generally suggest finding a fun new sport which you enjoy, to make it easier to keep up with in the long run, but practically any form of exercise will be beneficial.

Please remember that exercise alone will not ensure you avoid weight regain, however. It needs to work in tandem with a healthy, balanced diet in order for it to be truly effective. [210]

Additionally, a common side effect of weight loss is a reduction in muscle mass. [214] Consequently, you should aim to perform resistance training each week to help prevent muscle loss, and boost your metabolism, which will help to keep the weight off over time. [215] [189]

Avoid strict diets that are difficult to follow

While there are some diets which receive more praise than others, at the end of the day the most successful diet for you is the one you find easiest to follow, while providing health benefits.

Diets that are too restrictive can leave you feeling disheartened, and they can also cause biological changes that lead to you regaining weight. For example, heavily calorie-restricted diets can affect the appetite-regulating hormones and slow your metabolism. [207]

Focus on making sustainable lifestyle changes, such as replacing your lunchtime chocolate bar with a handful of delicious blueberries, and using the stairs rather than elevators.

Keep up a high intake of healthy fruit and vegetables, and eat plenty of protein and healthy fats while restricting your consumption of refined, simple carbs. A number of studies have linked a low-carb diet with a reduced calorie intake – one of the key components of successful weight maintenance – while protein can have a satiating effect, among other benefits. [209]

Keep eating healthily on the weekends, not just weekdays

One of the things that often leads to people regaining weight is ‘cheating’ each weekend.

While it isn’t forbidden to relax and eat whatever you want on occasions, you should at least try to restrict it to just one of these days, and ideally not binge every single week either.

If you have lots of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks or alcohol every weekend, you are likely to end up gaining more weight than you lost originally. [208]

Even if you are not particularly pigging out at weekends, you may find that you still eat a lot more than you realise, due to not being busy with work or your studies and resorting to boredom eating. Consider using a food tracker or keeping a diary, to help you realise just how many calories and nutrients you are eating each day. [209]

Additionally, you can log your exercise to check that you are eating enough for your activity levels.

Get plenty of sleep and relax

Sleep plays a significant role in weight control, so it is highly important you try to get around seven or eight hours’ sleep each night. [218]

If you don’t get enough sleep, you will likely be tired and irritable throughout the day, which may make you less motivated to adhere to your diet or take part in exercise. A lack of sleep has been associated with lower levels of leptin, which is often referred to as the ‘satiety hormone’, and higher levels of ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’. In short, you are likely to overeat when you haven’t had enough sleep. [217]

Meanwhile, you should also try to control your stress levels, with research linking cortisol to weight gain and belly fat. Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress, so having high levels of stress results in high levels of cortisol. [219]

Consider seeking support

Many people have found support groups or fitness partners to be highly effective ways to lose weight, and maintain this weight loss in the long term. If your partner or spouse is also trying to follow a healthy lifestyle, you may be more likely to prevent weight regain, according to research. [216]

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