When people start dieting, they focus on getting on the road to Thinsville as quickly as possible. However, they always forget that maintenance of weight is a legitimate goal! Therefore, in this article, you will learn how to maintain weight after losing it
So you have made it to the end of your diet… Congrats!
Now you have two options:
1. You can become yet another dieter who adds up to 95% of dieters who have lost weight and regained it or…
2. Be in that ~5% dieters elite who succeeded. Employ behaviors that they employ to keep the weight off for life.
I don’t know about you, but scenario numero dos sounds much more enticing.
Yes, most dieters regain the weight. But not because some fat-storing goblins appear during the night to shovel all the food into fat cells.
And in this article, I will tell you why is this. I will also zip through the nuts and bolts of why most dieters fail and how to maintain weight after losing it.
Weight Maintenance After Weight Loss: Why People Fail?
There’s exactly zero chance that you haven’t been on at least one diet over your lifetime.
And it’s easy to pick from…
Have you heard about “The Lunar Diet”? Or…
Back in the 1700s, there was the “Avoiding Swamps Diet”. I’m not joking here… One dude observed that more fat people lived near swamps and came up with the “scientific” idea that staying away from swamps might be the answer to staying lean.
Even these days “The Tapeworm Diet” still exists. Some folks fall for the idea that ingesting parasites so that they can eat what they want and lose weight is a cool thing.
These days we have diets like Ketogenic diet, Paleo Diet, Carnivore diet, Snake Diet (seriously…), The Zone Diet, South Beach Diet, The Ketogenic Diet, The Mediterranean Diet.
Plus, hundred and one additional…
Some of these have some sort of scientific backup and some are straight-up fads (FAD diets).
I don’t have problems with most FAD diets. Any diet that makes you eat less is usually a good thing since it reduces some of the psychological stress that happens with dieting.
What I have a problem with is that all these diets are presented to you and me as a miracle diet that will solve everyone’s problems.
Two of the biggest issues with FAD diets are:
- They imply a starting point and an ending point
- They involve elimination/restriction of various foods (Carbs are evil…)
This all-or-nothing, elimination/restriction, rigid approach to dieting has actually been associated with overeating, increased body weight, and eating disorder symptoms.
This interferes with adherence to the diet long-term which is THE KEY for a sustainable diet.
“Many people end up losing weight following these protocols by reducing their calorie intake, but can’t wait until the diet is “over” so that they can go back to eating “normal”. At the “end” of a diet, many people are left wondering, “What the hell do I do now?”
– Layne Norton
Now here is the drop the mic moment of mine:
Diets are absolute failures, they are absurd, they are a steamy load of…you know what. FAD diets are fundamentally wacky.
If you are itching to yell out that “but my friend Lizzy lost 50 pounds on Atkins diet”, then I will say this:
Damn right she did. Diets are GREAT for weight loss. However, the question should not be, “Did Lizzy lose weight?” but rather “How much weight did Lizzy lost and KEPT OFF?”.
There are quite many reasons why weight maintenance after weight loss is so darn difficult. But the main is well-described by Sohee Lee:
If you can’t see yourself sticking to your diet one year from now, you need to re-think your strategy. If you don’t like the way you eat, you won’t stick to it for long, and it’ll only be a matter of time before you jump ship and end up regaining all the weight
The common leap of logic is that the best diet for YOU is the one that you can stick to in the long run.
I know, this doesn’t sound as exciting as it is to root and hope for the next breakthrough diet but it’s true. The research says that’s what is most likely to produce and sustain long-term weight loss.
Some folks thrive on a low carbohydrate, ketogenic approach (usually insulin resistant folks) and find it sustainable, but that doesn’t mean it’s the answer for YOU.
The Bottom Line: If you started a diet and found yourself struggling to adhere to it a couple of weeks later, ditch it. It’s a piece of garbage for YOU. You need to find a diet approach where you wouldn’t be wondering “what should I do know?” after the diet is over.
So, now that we have gone over some things why diets fail in maintaining weight loss for a lifetime, let’s see what are the 6 strategies to keep the weight off.
1. Sustainability and Adherence
I feel like I have made it abundantly clear but I will say it again – sustainability and dietary adherence are by far the most important factors in weight maintenance after weight loss (source).
Everyone with a remotely solid foundation of nutritional knowledge would agree that if you can’t sustain and adhere to the methods you used to drop weight, then the question is not “if” but “how quickly” you will gain the weight back after you lose it.
If you lost weight following keto diet, you should be following it after that fat is gone.
Sure, your metabolism will slow down and you will have to eat less because you weigh less but whatever diet you followed to create a calorie deficit, you should be able to sustain long-term.
Some people love low-carb diets, while others hate them. Some people love intermittent fasting, while others hate it. If you try to force someone who hates eating low-carb into a low-carb lifestyle, their adherence both short and long-term is going to be terrible—and therefore, unsustainable.
You need to realize that achieving significant weight loss is a monumentally challenging, mind-numbing, daily grind. It’s not a stroll through the park where you are faithful to an “off-limits” food list and look like a superhero in a month.
It will take discipline, dedication, and willpower.
However, you want to use strategies and employ behaviors that require the minimal amount of willpower needed to adhere to the strategy. You only have so much willpower in reserve.
This is why it’s so crucial to find the simplest dietary strategy for YOU. Pick a diet approach that requires minimum willpower right from the beginning.
If you don’t, you are F*cked right from the get-go. It’s going to fail 100% of the time.
The Bottom Line: Play around with diets. Try flexible dieting, tracking food intake, intermittent fasting, keto. Once you find one that doesn’t drain your willpower, roll with it. If you fail at this, you are already on the one-way road to the weight regain town.
2. Cognitive Restraint
The most common trait of dieters who drop weight and keep it off is that they have some form of cognitive restraint. Think limiting calories, time-restricted eating, limiting certain macronutrients (like low-carb), portion control, tracking macros, etc.
It’s worth mentioning that all diets will require some willpower. Don’t expect to have boundless energy for seizing the day with relentless awesomeness. That said, you want to opt for one that requires the least willpower.
Are you carb-crazy? Low-carb or Keto isn’t a good fit for you. Do you see tracking macros as a platform for obsessiveness and food neuroticism? Flexible dieting might not be for you.
Don’t get me wrong – some level of sacrifice will be needed to lose and maintain the weight but you don’t want to purposefully make things more difficult before you even started a diet.
To me, flexible dieting/moderation is my way to go about…well, life. I’ve been tracking macros for so long that I feel like Neo in Matrix.
The main reason why I love flexible eating and tracking macros is that it doesn’t make you eliminate/restrict ANY food group.
You can eat anything you like as long as you hit your daily protein, calorie and fiber intakes. That’s the same dieting approach that 90% of my online clients use.
I talked about calorie tracking and flexible eating in my article so make sure to give it a read.
The Bottom Line: No matter which cognitive restraint you choose, it’s key to have one in the first place if you wish to maintain weight after losing it. Most importantly, you MUST BE willing to continue that strategy into weight maintenance after weight loss. Otherwise, you’ll be amongst that 95% of dieters who failed.
Self-monitoring is somewhat similar to cognitive restraint.
One particular study showed that successful “losers” used self-monitoring strategies such as weighing themselves daily, planning meals, tracking calories even AFTER a diet (source).
It boggles my mind that so many dieters stop tracking food intake once they achieve their goal. If you’re tracking your calorie intake, you can better control it and ensure that you’re not overeating.
When it comes to weighing yourself DAILY, most people call it a day once they are done with a diet. Fun factoid – daily weigh-ins act as a self-regulator. This means that you will know that you are overeating if the weight starts climbing.
One little wrinkle I want to add here is that for some, daily weigh-ins might aid in better weight maintenance. For others, frequent weigh-ins can promote neuroticism and unhealthy self-image.
This happens because some people can’t divest themselves from the daily number they see on the scale. But there is a way out:
Focus on finding a weekly average.
Your weight is going to spike up and down daily — there’s no getting away from that fact.
But if you take your weight daily and find the average over the course of a week, it will balance out the fluctuations, and you will see a more realistic representation of how you’re actually progressing.
Weight fluctuations of up to 1-2% per day are natural and it should not make you freak out.
Read this article about tracking weight loss progress.
The Bottom Line: Self-monitoring strategies should not be excluded once the diet is over. They help you to keep your current body composition “in sight, in mind”.
4. Regular Exercise
I always end up face-palming at people who disappear from the gym once they achieve their kick-ass body. Why would you ditch something that has played a crucial role in what you achieved?
In fact, exercising regularly after losing weight should be your PRIORITY!
In this study, more than 70% of people who maintained weight after losing it engaged in regular exercise (source).
Here are some fun factoids why you should NOT metaphorically (or physically) throw your workout routine papers out:
Exercise increases your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) therefore, you can eat more
Exercise lowers the body fat setpoint that your body will defend. This means that even in the case of weight regain, you will end up regaining less weight than you would without exercising (source)
Exercise inhibits the development of fat cell number which has been observed with weight regain post-diet (source)
- Exercise, some research shows, diminishes hunger and lowers food intake in the post-diet phase (source)
That’s among gajillions of other benefits.
Now here’s a fancy-pants analogy for you:
Trying to maintain weight after losing it, without exercising, is like trying to bail water out of a ship with a hole in the hull while refusing to fix the hole.
Don’t be mistaken, you don’t have to spend five days a week in that gym where you see big, hairy, and sweaty dudes—possibly bears—throwing down two dumbbells, scratching and smelling their armpits, and shouting inappropriate slurs for all the gym-goers to hear.
Even exercising 45 minutes per day, two to three times per week can benefit greatly compared to just slothing around the house and blaming everything except gluttony and sloth for the pounds that are coming back.
The Bottom Line: Don’t think that exercising two to three times per week is pointless. Exercise, no matter how long, is FREAKN’ awesome. It’s one of the best medicines you can give your body and keep the weight off.
5. Structured Programs
Another fun factoid – I have an online client who I’m working with for the 8th month! You might laugh at it and say “why not save money and just find all the info you need on teh internetz?”.
Well, people like following structured things. They enjoy having someone to put their trust in.
Continuing in this vein, we often find ourselves second-guessing ourselves. That’s why having a structured program to follow takes the guesswork out of their hands.
Even the research shows that successful dieters who keep the weight off tend to use structured programs (source).
The Bottom Line: Having a well-designed workout plan by a professional who knows “the stuff” takes the guesswork out of people’s hands. They no longer need to wonder if the new program is right for THEM. As a result, adherence may boost due to increased confidence in what they are doing.
6. Ability to Focus on the Long-Term Goal
Individuals who maintain weight after losing it are good at focusing on the long-term goal.
They are also good at not letting short-term desires to control their behavior and actions.
For instance, if a person feels hungry and starts feeling that inner foodie-monster is coming out, he uses self-talk to realize that hunger comes and goes in waves.
No matter if he feels seven kinds of shitty AT THE MOMENT, he knows that long-term goals are most important.
People who keep the weight off don’t focus on quick and magic fixes.
Instead of losing 20 pounds NOW and risking losing muscle mass and damaging their metabolic rate, they put efforts into losing 20 pounds in a sustainable way so that they can keep it off.
Studies show that successful dieters are against water fasts, FAD diets, detoxing and cleansing “magic” (source). They know that these things lead to short-term results that don’t last and they cause yo-yo dieting which… Sucks B*LLZ…
The Bottom Line: People who maintain weight after losing it are aware of the fact that a diet consisting of six slices of white bread per day is not sustainable. It might help to dwindle to an emaciated pile of bones in a matter of months (or for some, a matter of weeks) but the weight will come back. Even more of it.
Weight regain has spread like a hooker’s legs in the weight loss community. The worst part, it’s easy to fix…
Always remember that consistency and adherence trump everything else. EVERYTHING!
If you started a diet and already feel like being in the concentration camp, you have already failed at keeping the weight off before you even lost it.
If you are tired, frustrated, sad, and have little to no hope to drop fat, make sure to sign up for my Online Coaching Program.