What Type of Diet is Best for Weight Maintenance After Weight Loss?

What Type of Diet is Best for Weight Maintenance After Weight Loss?

(Last Updated On: March 30, 2019)

What Type of Diet is Best for Weight Maintenance After Weight Loss?

You’ve worked hard to lose weight and you succeeded! The last thing you want to do is gain it all back. Losing weight is only half the battle: the rest is weight maintenance after you lose the weight. When you lose weight your calorie requirements drop. After losing weight you burn fewer calories during exercise and during your daily activities because there’s less weight to carry around. Plus, your metabolism slows as thyroid hormone levels drop in response to calorie restriction. To make it even more challenging, your leptin decreases so you feel hungrier. Your body is working against you to try to bring you back to your set point weight. If you throw caution to the wind and return to your former eating habits, you’re likely to slowly (or quickly) bounce back to your pre-weight loss weight.

Yes, It is Possible to Maintain It

How likely are you to regain weight after losing it? A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed obese individuals who lose weight are able to maintain a weight loss over 5 years of only about 3.2% of their initial body weight. Another study was more optimistic. This study showed 87% of women who had lost weight but made the appropriate lifestyle choices were able to maintain at least a 10% weight loss at five and ten years after reaching their weight goal. So, it is possible to keep it off! What lifestyle behaviors were linked with weight maintenance? According to this study, staying physically active, weighing regularly, not overeating and eating a healthy diet.

What Diet is Best for Weight Maintenance After Weight Loss?

What you eat and how much you eat are important for weight maintenance, but which diet is best? According to a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet low in high-glycemic carbohydrates is best. This study showed adopting a diet high in carbs, especially high-glycemic carbs after calorie restriction and weight loss was linked with greater weight regain. This study illustrates the importance of choosing carbohydrate sources wisely when you’re trying to maintain a lower body weight.

What’s so bad about high-glycemic carbs? They cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and a greater insulin response. In turn, insulin makes it harder to break down fat by blocking an enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase. It also makes it easier for your body to store fat. On the other hand, low-glycemic carbs cause a slower rise in blood sugar and a more subdued insulin response. High-glycemic carbs are usually low in fiber or high in sugar. Examples of high-glycemic fare include foods made with white flour, many processed foods, white rice, white potatoes and some fruits and starchy vegetables. Carbohydrates that are lower on the glycemic scale include fiber-rich vegetables, nuts, and whole grain foods. Eating high-glycemic food with protein also lowers the glycemic response.

Other Strategies for Maintaining a Lower Weight

Diet is critical when it comes to weight control, but research shows the BEST predictor of successful weight loss maintenance is exercise. Some people are able to lose a significant amount of weight through diet alone, but can’t keep it off without regular physical activity. Most people think aerobic exercise is best because it burns calories, but don’t underestimate the importance of resistance training for successful weight maintenance. A study showed adults who resistance train are more likely to keep the weight from coming back. Having more muscle mass gives you a metabolic advantage. High-intensity exercise and resistance training both have metabolic benefits you won’t get from steady-state aerobic training.

You don’t want to be tied to the scale but research shows monitoring your weight on a regular basis, at least weekly, is linked with a lower risk for weight regain. When you follow your weight closely you’re able to react quickly to small changes in body weight and alter your diet and activity level before you gain a substantial amount of weight. Unfortunately, a standard scale tells you little about your body composition.

Weight changes can come from changes in lean body mass. Body fat scales for home use aren’t always accurate but they give you an idea of whether your body fat is increasing, decreasing or staying the same if you use it properly. The best way to track your body fat is to measure it at the same time each day, first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. Avoid falling into the trap of weighing every day. Your weight can fluctuate greatly depending upon how much sodium you ate the day before. Weigh once or twice a week instead.

A healthy diet, exercise, and self-monitoring are all essential for maintaining your weight once you’ve lost it.

 The Bottom Line

Losing weight is a huge accomplishment but it’s only the first step. It takes ongoing dedication to exercise and healthy eating to maintain it. Be sure to monitor yourself regularly to make sure you’re not gradually falling back into old habits.



Am J Clin Nutr November 2001 vol. 74 no. 5 579-584.

Science Daily. “Study shows keys to successful long-term weight loss maintenance”

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “High Carbohydrate Diets Prevent Weight Maintenance” July 9, 2014.

J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 2012;5(1):13-25. doi: 10.1159/000337081. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Dec;18(6):1009-29.

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2006, 3:17.

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2008; 5: 54.


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Successful Weight Maintenance After Weight Loss: What Research Shows

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3 thoughts on “What Type of Diet is Best for Weight Maintenance After Weight Loss?

  1. I agree with stepping on the scale at least once a week. Lately, there are many articles and bloggers who say to throw the scale out, but I think that is too extreme. I’m a seasoned weight-lifter and endurance athlete and I know when to expect a pound or two after lifting, or losing too much after a race. The scale is very helpful both ways, including telling me when I need to lift more. I tend to gain weight easily in the winter, and since I wear mainly technical clothing, they don’t tell me when things are getting tighter as quickly as say…jeans. When I decided to stay off the scale like everyone was saying, I gained 9 pounds through the winter months and was surprised as **** when I put my spring riding shorts on. I weigh twice a week, and give myself a 3 pound leeway to either gain or loose.

  2. I am reading a book about a very sensible approach to eating…called the One, One, One diet by Rania Batayneh. I think it seems to be avery doable way to make a lifestyle change. I usually just try to eat mindfully and practice 80/20 rule…and am also mindful about calories in calories out. I feel what I practice is a portable way of eating and a very do-able one..painless. That is what I am getting from this book too. Eating healthy should be effortless or painless and portable. I do weigh my self daily as a check and I workout daily too. Balance is key!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Maintaining weight after a significant weight loss is challenging, but it can certainly be accomplished. Many people who do lose weight will gain it back in time, especially those who lost weight in an unhealthy way (such as fad dieting). Great post and keep it up!

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