How can I keep off weight once I have lost it?

Mark Twain once said, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.” Maintaining your weight loss long-term is no different, you will need to continue to incorporate similar lifestyle, exercise, and nutrition practices to those that helped you achieve your initial success.

So how much work and effort will it take, you ask? Well, it might be less than you think. According to a study published in 2008 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, individuals who were able to sustain a weight loss of 10% or more of their initial body weight long-term did so by maintaining a reduction in energy intake and exercising 4 ½ hours each week, or only about 40 minutes a day!

The transition between the weight loss phase and the maintenance phase can make some people uncomfortable due to the fact that it usually means you are increasing your caloric intake again and the fear of gaining the weight back is the first thing on your mind.  These fears can be diminished by doing some leg work ahead of time to help alleviate those problems.  My first recommendation is to sit down and write out your goals for this phase.  What do you want and why?  Keep asking why!!!  This phase can have different goals than your weight loss phase.  During the initial weight loss phase you should have started changing your lifestyle habits.  Lifestyle change is the key to keeping the weight off.  I am not against splurging every once in awhile, but remember you must come back goals and values you set for yourself. 

The next step is to continue logging your food.  This will give you a realistic idea of what you are eating on a daily basis.  If your weight starts to jump you will know why right away and can adjust your workouts accordingly.

My final suggestion would be to add variety to your routine.  During the weight loss phase you probably found what worked for you by completing the same routine over and over again.  After a couple of months this can become very monotonous.   Try a new program such as circuit training, yoga, hiking, or swimming.  This will not only keep you progressing to your new goals but alleviate any boredom that may set in and send you down the wrong path.

Good luck and remember this is a lifestyle change not a diet!

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Two-thirds of the population are overweight. In this video, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen reveal the single hardest part of losing weight.

Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

To help you keep weight off once you have lost it:

  • Weigh yourself every morning. Give yourself a three-pound window within which to fluctuate. Within that range, don't panic. Fluid shifts can easily account for fluctuations of three pounds. But do weigh yourself every morning or at least a few times a week. Weight tends to creep up slowly over time, so if you aren't keeping a close eye on it on a regular basis, it can happen without your noticing.
  • If you exceed the three-pound limit, start keeping a log of your daily food and exercise again. Review all the tools you have learned in this program and focus on being more diligent until you get back to your target weight. If you jump back into a more vigilant mode as soon as you cross the three-pound limit, you should get back to your target weight in no time.
  • Take care of emotional issues, since these do tend to influence weight control. Effective management of stress, anxiety, and depression will not only help your overall health, it will optimize your weight loss maintenance efforts as well.
  • Finally, and most important, exercise regularly: Consistent physical activity is probably the most important factor in long-term weight loss maintenance. Among national weight control registrants, walking is the most popular activity, followed by cycling, weight lifting, and aerobics. The amount of time typically spent exercising by those who are maintaining weight loss is about 40 minutes a day.
Natalie Irvin, MD
Family Medicine
The battle of maintaining a healthy weight can be very frustrating as long term eating and exercise patterns must change to keep the weight off. Sanford Health has a comprehensive program which has a team of registered dieticians, exercise physiologist, psychologist, physicians, and surgeons who work together to achieve a healthier weight and reduce the risk of long term chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. Sanford offers a variety of weight loss options including medications, healthy lifestyles, and surgery to help you lose the weight. Once you achieve your weight loss goal, maintenance classes are available to help you maintain the weight loss.  
If the pounds you dropped recently are working their way back on, there's a time-tested gadget that might help halt the creep.

It's your bathroom scale. Research shows that people who weigh themselves regularly after reaching a goal weight do a much better job of keeping the lost pounds off.

When you're trying to lose weight, a bathroom scale may not be your best friend. It doesn't always tell the whole story. But if you're trying to keep lost weight off, a scale could be just the thing to keep you from backsliding. Researchers asked people who had lost weight over a 2-year period to weigh themselves daily for 18 months. The result? People who regularly weighed in were more successful at keeping the weight off for the long haul.

So what else can you do to keep your weight -- and appetite -- in check?
  • Eat a little healthy fat at the start of each meal. It will help curb your appetite.
  • Buy a bag of pears, and have one before each meal. You'll eat less overall.
  • Don't diet! Really. Dieters usually regain what they lose. 
Once someone loses weight, they may ask themselves: “How can I keep off weight now that I have lost it?” The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) has been collecting data for more than a decade from people who have lost weight and have been able to maintain their weight loss. Ninety percent of the members surveyed by NWCR reported they combined diet and exercise to lose weight. Some other tips to keep off weight once you’ve lost it include: Exercising, limiting television, eating breakfast, eating when hungry rather than out of boredom, and self-monitoring with weekly weigh-ins or food journaling.
Kirsi Bhasin
Nutrition & Dietetics

Here are the top 4 tips I give my weight loss clients for lasting weight loss:

  1. Support. Have family and friends that support your healthy habits and help you maintain them. The good habits of your friends can rub off on you. Studies have shown that women whose close friends had healthy habits like exercise and eating healthy foods were more likely to take up those habits themselves.  Watch out, unhealthy habits are just as likely to rub off on you too.
  2. Be easy on yourself and don’t restrict yourself too much. You may lapse and have something that is fatty and unhealthy. That’s ok. I advise many of my clients to have a cheat meal about once a week. Being on a very restrictive diet can set you up for binging and packing on the pounds again.
  3. Pick out foods that are satisfying and use good judgment around food. Don’t think in terms of this food is good or bad. INSTEAD, think "is this food nutritious or not nutritious?" Take into consideration what you have eaten that day and what you’re going to eat to make a good decision on what you’re going to put into your mouth.
  4. Be in-tune with what your body is telling you. Identify the signals your body is giving you when you are truly hungry (difficulty focusing, light headedness, growling stomach).  If you are not truly hungry and just want to eat for comfort, go on a walk, do exercise you love or something you enjoy to take your mind off of food.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.