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