Depending on the source, within one year of weight loss, 50-70% of people will have regained all the weight. This makes sense considering how most people try losing weight — juice cleanses, keto, detoxes, fasting for 5 years straight because someone said something about autophagy or some such crap.
Let’s assume that you lose weight in a sustainable way — a small to moderate calorie deficit, higher protein intake, more fruits and veggies, weight lifting, and yadda yadda yadda. How do you then transition to weight maintenance?
Here are four pieces of advice that will help you avoid weight regain after dieting:
1. Be okay with being a little hungry
Leptin is one of the most important hormones when it comes to weight regulation because it decreases the urge to eat. And for reasons I can’t be bothered to explain, as you get into a calorie deficit and lose weight, leptin levels drop. This increases hunger.
Conversely, as you increase your calorie intake, leptin levels increase. This means less hunger.
Let’s not alert the media about that just yet because there is a problem: After an extended period of dieting, it takes at least 1-2 weeks of eating at maintenance to increase leptin levels (to some degree). So you have to be ready for some hunger even during maintenance. The leaner you get, the longer it will take to reverse the downregulation of leptin.
From my experience working with clients, you should get back to normal in about four weeks. Or more. Dunno. The point is you need to eat more fiber- and protein-rich foods, voluminous foods too (fruits and veggies), and drink enough water to manage hunger a bit better.
2. Get back to maintenance calorie intake as quickly as possible
You might have heard the term “reverse dieting” floating around the fitness realm. If you haven’t, please know that it’s not some sort of an impressive architecture thing but rather, a strategy of dieting where calories are increased in a controlled manner over time:
The idea of doing so is to increase metabolic rate while minimizing fat gain. But the problem is… you can’t change your basal metabolic rate.
Note in the above image that while you are adding calories each week, you are still in a calorie deficit which means that leptin can’t get back to a normal level and you are extending the period of being hungry. And if I’m honest, if I have just spent months dieting, I want to get back to maintenance as quickly as possible.
That is why I like my clients to take no more than 2 weeks to transition from calorie deficit to maintenance as this minimizes weight fluctuations on the scale that can mess with their heads.
If it was up to me, I would increase calories in one chunk. But since people confuse weight gain with fat gain, I think transitioning in 1-2 weeks by adding ~250 calories each week is a better way.
Plus, it’s easier to find new maintenance this way (after losing weight, the number of calories you need to maintain your new weight decreases so you can’t go back to eating as much as you did before dieting).
3. Don’t freak the fuck out if you gain some weight
12 seconds ago I said that people confuse weight gain with fat gain. This is important because when transitioning to maintenance, you will gain some weight. But it will not be fat! It will be:
- Water weight due to more carbs and probably more salt in your diet.
- Increased glycogen after introducing more carbohydrates into your diet.
- Gut content. More food consumed = a higher number on the scale [duh].
None of the above have anything to do with fat so don’t go mental and start dieting again. In fact, you will probably look more vascular and your muscles will look fuller. You will have better workouts too.
So don’t confuse weight gain with fat gain. Chill out. Travel to one of Amsterdam’s coffee shops if you need to take a chill smoke.
4. Don’t suddenly change your diet
This is why harp so much on the importance of eating foods based on your personal preference rather than made-up principles of some no-sugar, ketosis-inducing, autophagy-initiating trendy diet.
Once you are satisfied with your physique and you want to stop dieting, nothing in your diet should change apart from the amount of food you eat. If you lose weight following keto and now you are all ‘okay, now I’m gonna go back to the way I used to eat,” you are probably going to regain the weight.
You should never gamble with your health (both physical and mental) by starting a diet that you can’t sustain long-term.
Contrary to a popular belief, people are great at losing weight. The problem is that they struggle to maintain their weight loss. But if you do these four things, you should have no issues maintaining your new weight.
Originally published by me on Medium on June 18, 2022