Secrets of Successful Weight Maintenance
Losing weight is one thing. But how do you keep it off?
The four strategies of people who keep weight off
Proven Strategies. Your healthcare provider can outline a long-term weight-loss strategy well suited to your needs and goals. Not all people lose weight the same way; many clinical studies have suggested different approaches. Still, we can simplify things down to four main strategies that have delivered the best results and helped more people keep the weight off:
- Eat smart
Low-calorie, low-fat meals work. A clinical study showed that most patients who lost weight and kept it off were in the habit of eating fewer calories and foods low in fat. Eating fewer calories, less fat, and less fast food were strongly linked to success in keeping weight off. For most people, the key to healthy eating for successful weight loss was to eat foods that are low in calories and low in fat. More than 3 out of 4 people in this study ate the recommended fat intake or less.
- Stay active
The next key to success was physical activity. Remember that any level of activity is better than none. The US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, recommends 2½ hours of moderate exercise per week for most adults; more is recommended for those who want additional benefits. Another study showed that people who kept weight off averaged an hour or more of moderate physical activity per day most days of the week, which is in line with the HHS guidelines. Most people can manage this level of activity safely, even if they are overweight or not used to exercise. Still, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider before you increase your physical activity.
Physical activity has other benefits as well. An hour of physical activity per day most days of the week may improve your quality of life. Raising your physical activity level may also help you control your eating, which can further support your efforts to lose weight and keep it off.
- Eat regularly
Try not to skip meals! You may be tempted to skip breakfast or other meals in the hope that it will help you lose weight faster. Try not to. As we previously discussed, eating regular meals is an effective strategy for long-term weight loss. While skipping breakfast may be tempting, it tends to backfire. In yet another study of people who lost weight and kept it off, those who skipped breakfast not only ate the same total calories per day as those who didn’t, but were also less active in the morning. So, skipping a meal doesn’t save you calories; however, it can reduce your physical activity. This can make it hard to use up the calories you eat.
Your body has a large capacity to store fat and use it as an energy reserve. Skipping a lot of meals can trick your body into keeping these fat stores longer. This can slow your metabolism and work against your long-term goals. On the other hand, this does not mean you should try to eat more often than you already do, but you should eat planned meals at the times suggested by your healthcare provider. In one study of successful long-term weight loss, the average person ate almost 5 times a day; very few ate less than twice a day.
We’ve also talked in the past about meal replacements for when you don’t have time to eat a real meal. It is probably best not to rely on them all the time, but a meal replacement now and then can help you avoid the ill effects of a skipped meal. If you use a meal replacement, be sure to choose one that gives you balanced nutrition, with the same nutrients and about the same calories you would get from the meal you missed.
- Weigh yourself regularly
The scale is your friend. Regular weighing is linked to success; it helps you keep on track and lets you respond quickly if your weight goes up. In one study, people who kept weighing themselves were most likely to keep the weight off one year later. Moreover, 3 out of 4 people in this study weighed themselves at least once a week; many weighed themselves every day.
Other studies overwhelmingly support this finding. Tracking your weight can be a highly effective weight-loss tool. More frequent weighing is linked to greater success in weight loss, with the best results seen in people who weigh themselves daily.
Some people may worry that weighing themselves more often might lead to emotional distress. But a survey of people in a weight-loss program found that the opposite may be true: more frequent weighing may not just help you lose weight, it actually may improve the way you feel about your body. Still, if frequent weighing concerns you, please speak with your healthcare provider.
Motivation and support
Your calorie target
As we discussed at the start of Q and Me, your calorie goals are specific to your body’s needs. These needs may not be the same as another person’s. Your own needs are based on factors like your age, your sex, and your height, as well as your weight. While most of these factors don’t change, others do. If you haven’t done so yet, please consult your healthcare provider to decide on your new goals, proper nutrition, and physical activity plans. Ideally, your new goal would be to maintain your new weight. If you’d like to lose more weight, please keep in mind that it may not be as easy as in the beginning. Whichever your new goal may be, remember: this isn’t just a change in your routine; this is a milestone you’ve earned.
Progress in other areas
It’s also important to remember that your progress on your journey is measured by more than just your weight. The weight you lose is important, and as we discussed in previous months, there are a number of other benefits you’ve probably picked up along the way. Gradual weight loss can boost your confidence and your ability to build onyour success.
Take some time now to think about the ways your life may have changed for the better. You may find that you are more confident and that you have more energy. Also, your sleep may have improved or your aches and pains may have decreased and gone away. You probably feel better now when you look in the mirror or step on the scale. And perhaps you’ve gained the respect of friends and family because of the changes you’ve managed to make inyour life.
These could be the things you’ve earned because you made a choice to change your life, and you followed through.