First, you lose the weight. Then there’s the obstacle of weight maintenance. Unfortunately, this can be the most challenging of all. Over 90% of people who successfully lose weight gradually regain the weight they lost and sometimes more. Some experts believe that each person has a “set point” weight partially determined by genetics that their body tries to bring them back to when they lose weight. Still, there are people who beat the odds and successfully keep weight off. What are their secrets?
The Secrets of Successful Weight Loss Maintainers
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers followed over 8,000 young women who had successfully lost weight for 4 years to see what factors were linked with successful weight maintenance. In this study, women with certain demographic characteristics were more successful – those who had not had children, those who were never married or who were professionals. This makes sense since women with these characteristics may be more motivated to control their weight to advance their careers and also to be more attractive to the opposite sex. But there were other factors that contributed to successful weight maintenance in this study.
Women who maintained their weight had characteristics suggesting they were more health conscious. They were less likely to smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol or have disordered eating habits like binge eating and restricting calories excessively. Eating fast food and takeaway food was another factor that impacted success. Women who ate fast food even occasionally were 15% less likely to successfully sustain their weight loss.
The amount of time spent sitting was another factor. Those who spent the most time sitting during the day were less likely to maintain their weight long-term. Time spent sitting appears to be an independent risk for weight gain and for health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, irrespective of time spent exercising in a structured manner. Non-structured exercise activity, also known as NEAT, includes activities like walking up the stairs, washing the windows or simply fidgeting. These activities may not burn as many calories as a high-intensity workout, but the extra calories burned add up at the end of the day.
What Other Research Shows about Weight Maintenance
Other research shows that successful weight maintainers are more likely to be physically active, to take more steps during the day and work out at least 30 minutes daily. A study published in the International Journal of Behavior Nutrition and Physical Activity found that adults who strength trained were more likely to be successful losers and maintain their weight loss. Successful weight maintainers were also more likely to weigh daily and track their food intake by keeping a journal and monitor their portion sizes. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
The Bottom Line?
Successfully maintaining a lower weight after losing it requires commitment and self-monitoring. People who control portion sizes and calories and weigh themselves regularly and make appropriate adjustments are less likely to regain weight. Both structured workouts, including resistance training, and more movement in the form of NEAT is also important for success. These are all points to consider if you’re concerned about maintaining your weight after losing it. Don’t lose track of the fact that weight maintenance requires close dietary monitoring, regular exercise and, most of all, commitment.
International Journal of Obesity, Vol. 26, pp. 1570-1578.
Journal of Obesity. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 202037.
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2006, 3:17.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 74, No. 5. Pages 579-584.