Seven Strategies for Maintaining Weight Loss

  • July 15, 2021
  • by Diane Duvall
Dr. Geni Abraham

You’ve finally reached your weight loss goal. This involved hard work, personal commitment and overcoming various setbacks along the way. Celebrate your success! But realize that this is a journey. Avoiding the trap of yo-yo dieting and maintaining the weight loss long-term requires staying committed to healthy, sustainable lifestyle habits. Hold on to the healthy habits that you adopted on your weight loss journey. What were some of those habits that you feel were most successful to you?  

It is important to remain diligent because science shows us that after individuals lose weight, they are not metabolically the same as they were before they lost weight. The body wants to drive you back to the set point, back to the weight from which you started.  Studies done at the Columbia University Medical Center showed that you can be the same gender and weight as someone that’s never lost weight, but your body now requires 20 percent less calories than theirs does. This could help explain why exercise is the number one predictor in keeping weight off long-term in addition to modified food intake.  

The National Weight Control Registry collects lifestyle habits of people who have maintained a significant weight loss over a long period of time. There is variety in how their 10,000 members have kept their weight off but most report continuing to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity. 

  • 78% eat breakfast every day. 

  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.

  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.

  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day. 

Maintaining weight loss for a lifetime is possible. There are plenty of simple habits that you can adopt that will help you maintain your hard-earned weight loss. Here are several strategies that may help you discover a balanced approach to maintain lifestyle changes for a healthy weight long-term.  

Consistent Self-Monitoring of Weight. Don’t fear the scale. Weighing yourself regularly (at least once a week) has been shown to be a key component to successful weight loss maintenance. By keeping an eye on the scale, you can make sure you are not going overboard when allowing for indulgences. If your weight starts to creep up, you can easily return to your ideal weight by making small adjustments to your diet or physical activity. Don’t be obsessed by the scale but it is important to pay attention to creeping weight gain. 

Regular Exercise. A common characteristic in those who have maintained long term weight loss is high levels of physical activity. Most commit to about an hour of exercise per day, most days of the week. Consider moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking. If you don’t have a solid hour to exercise break this out into 10-minute or 30-minute intervals. Boost activity levels consistently during the day. Add things such as walking in place while watching television or talking on the phone. Include strength training and stretching a few days per week. Always make physical activity a part of your life. If you take in more energy then you are expending you will gradually put on weight. If you eat more now than you did while dieting and are gaining weight, you can try cutting back by eating one-half less of these excess calories and make up the other half by increasing exercise to burn those additional calories.  

Follow a Consistent Diet. Popular strategies for maintaining weight loss include eating breakfast daily. This may help curb hunger and cravings later in the day. Set the trend for the day with a healthy balanced meal including protein and healthy fat.  Consider incorporating omelettes, protein smoothies, cottage cheese and avocados. Eat plenty of vegetables daily which are low in calories, high in fiber and nutrients, and increase feelings of fullness. Minimize added sugars, refined grains and highly processed foods. Refined foods such as white bread, white pasta and fruit juices can undermine your weight maintenance goals. Stay hydrated with adequate water intake (half your ideal weight in ounces) and monitor how many calories are coming from your beverages. Maintain a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends. Monitor treat foods or added splurges on holidays or vacations. Don’t let the desire for your favorite foods derail you. Allow for small, portion-controlled amounts of these foods and budget this into your food plan. Recording your food intake can help with accountability and monitoring your calorie goals. It is also important to consider that a smaller you needs less calories. There are many apps to choose from which will also help with setting daily calorie intake such as MyFitnessPal or CarbManager. 

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Meal Planning. Planning meals and snacks will give you a higher level of control and leave you less vulnerable to overeating in response to emotional cues or availability of desired foods. Have healthy snacks on hand so you are not caught off guard when hunger strikes or there are unhealthy treats in the work lunchroom. Meal planning is important to help avoid grabbing fast food on the run. You can keep a cooler in the car with healthy snacks or simple lunches when appropriate. There are a lot of meal-prep-box recipe ideas online to have grab and go meals handy. Having some structure such as three healthy meals plus a planned snack daily or stopping eating by 7 pm each night can help with consistency.  

Manage Stress. Learning to reduce stress can have a large impact on your well-being and help you keep weight off in the long-term. Using simple mindfulness strategies in your day-to-day life can help stop unhelpful behaviors and patterns that cause you to gain weight. When chronically stressed the body has a strong drive for dense calories and storing fat. Take some control back with mindful eating – paying attention and recognizing the difference between eating when hungry and eating due to stress or boredom. Check in with your body by practicing a mini meditation before meals or snacks. Eat with all your senses – practice awareness - stop, take a few breaths, look at the food and think about where it came from and the benefits it will have for your body. What is the purpose of what you are eating? Is the food you are eating building your body up or sabotaging you? Is this food for emotional support? That is not food’s role. Train your body away from emotional eating. Can you just take one bite of your feel-good food? Mindful eating will also enable better management of portion control.  

As you manage stress better, emotional eating gets better. Click here for more information on this topic. Incorporate daily self-care to keep stress at bay. Physical activity helps to reduce stress. Try a yoga class or a walk in nature. Plan an afternoon or evening off – make time to do some of your favorite things. Be sure to get enough sleep at night and find times in the day when you can rest your mind and relax. Prayer, laughter, singing and dancing all promote a positive attitude. 

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Have Social Support. Support systems can be essential in helping you stick to your healthy habits and maintain your weight.  Try speaking with someone that can help keep you accountable and on the right track. This can be a friend, spouse, counselor, nutritionist or health coach. Work with a personal trainer, attend group fitness classes or find a buddy to regularly walk with. Be careful when spending time with friends that practice unhealthy habits that can make it difficult for you to stay on track. Make plans ahead of time of how and what you will eat in their company so you have a strategy. Be the influencer toward good health and not the influenced. 

Get Adequate Sleep. Research has shown that sleep is a powerful diet tool. Researchers found that dieters sleeping 8.5 hours per night vs those sleeping 5.5 hours lost more fat during a diet study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Most of us assume that our bodies burn more calories when we are awake longer, but this study showed that when we sleep less our body starts to burn calories at a slower rate to preserve energy. Insufficient sleep can also affect blood sugar levels, lead to increased cravings and reduce our energy levels. When we are tired, we are less prone to make good dietary decisions and may skip exercise. Monitor activities such as watching television, or time with social media or your smart phone so that you are not sacrificing sleep time.  

Successful weight maintenance is found through making positive lifestyle changes and staying consistent with those changes. Setbacks are normal, so be patient with yourself as you change lifelong patterns. Appreciate how far you’ve come, recognize your hard work and celebrate your ongoing successes. Remember your reasons for wanting to lose weight in the first place. Living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight is a life-long journey. It’s work, it’s a mindset and it’s worth it.  

Maintaining dietary and lifestyle changes can be challenging. We invite you to call us today to learn more about how our 12-Week Lifestyle Program or our Balanced Living Program can help you develop lifestyle habits that are right for you. Are there obstacles you are encountering that are derailing your progress? Click here for our article Overcoming Obstacles to Lifestyle Change.   

-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: @DrGeniAbraham

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-source-healing/201010/sleep-more-burn-more-fat#:~:text=People%20literally%20burned%20fat%20while,at%20the%20expense%20of%20muscle

https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006?aimhp=&

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLv0Vsegmoo

http://www.nwcr.ws/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10440589/

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