Many individuals have experienced the frustrating cycle of yo-yo dieting, where initial weight loss is followed by rapid regain. This pattern is not only discouraging but also detrimental to overall health, impacting hunger hormones and metabolic rates.
The difficulty in sustaining weight loss is evident in various studies, including a meta-analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies.1 It was found more than 50% of lost weight was regained within two years, and over 80% was regained by five years. Insights from past research such as weight control registries offer valuable information on strategies individuals can implement to successfully maintain weight loss.2 These registries, which track the habits of those who have successfully kept weight off for an extended period, provide evidence-based guidance for preventing weight regain.
1. Establish Realistic and Sustainable Goals
Rapid weight loss strategies may yield quick results, but they often lead to unsustainable practices. Focusing on gradual, sustainable changes in diet and physical activity can contribute to lasting success.
2. Adopt a Balanced and Varied Diet
Those who successfully maintain weight loss tend to consume a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. This is often accompanied by strategies to reduce energy intake. These include limiting calorie-dense foods, moderating sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, practising portion control, and adhering to a consistent eating pattern.
3. Prioritise Regular Physical Activity
Consistent physical activity is a hallmark of successful weight maintenance. Engage in regular exercise, incorporating a mix of cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and activities you enjoy. Establishing an enjoyable exercise routine contributes to its sustainability.
4. Practise Mindful Eating
Mindful eating involves being present during meals, paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, and savouring the eating experience. This approach can prevent overeating and emotional eating, common contributors to weight regain.
5. Stay Accountable with Monitoring
Regular self-monitoring is a habit shared by many successful weight maintainers. Keeping track of food intake, physical activity, and weight helps individuals stay accountable to their goals. It also enables early identification of deviations, allowing for timely adjustments.
6. Cultivate a Supportive Environment
Through family, friends, or weight loss support groups, having a network of individuals who understand and encourage your goals can positively impact weight maintenance.
7. Emphasise Long-Term Health
Shifting the focus from short-term aesthetics to long-term health is a common characteristic of successful weight maintainers. Recognising the broader health benefits of weight loss, such as improved energy levels and reduced risk of chronic diseases, can reinforce positive behaviours.
8. Prepare for Challenges
Maintaining weight loss demands a willingness to embrace and prepare for challenges in the forms of social events, stressful periods, or feelings of discomfort, such as the occasional feeling of hunger, choosing exercise over stress eating, and resisting the allure of highly desired foods. This requires building assertiveness against environmental cues, cultural norms and social influences.
9. Celebrate Milestones and Non-Scale Victories
Acknowledging and celebrating milestones, both on and off the scale, is essential for sustaining motivation. Recognising non-scale victories, such as increased energy, improved mood, or enhanced physical fitness, can help individuals stay committed to their long-term goals.
By incorporating these evidence-based strategies, individuals can increase their chances of successfully maintaining weight loss over the long term. The journey to a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle is ongoing, and lessons from those who have walked this path can guide individuals toward lasting success.