The difficulty of maintaining long-term weight loss is well documented. People can usually lose weight only to eventually regain it back. In fact, it’s estimated somewhere between 90-95% of people who lose weight will put the pounds back on and then some within one to three years.
Losing weight is not the issue – it’s being able to maintain the weight loss long-term. That’s why people who have lost weight and have been successful in keeping the weight off, have been studied to figure out what are they doing to achieve the accomplishment of not regaining the weight back. Whether they are maintaining a 10, 20, 30 pound or more weight loss, they tend to have common methods of success. There are a variety of techniques successful weight maintainers follow but three strategies are standouts in preventing a weight gain relapse.
1. Frequent self-weighing
A very simple method with immediate feedback is to step on a weight scale every day but only one time a day. A 2015 study in the Journal of Obesity showed frequent self-weighing along with recording the weight was effective in achieving sustainable weight loss.
The best time to step on the scale is first thing in the morning after waking up and after going to the bathroom. Weigh with little to no clothes on and then record the weight. Do not weigh yourself again until the following day. Recording the weight gives you a visual aspect helping you keep track of how you are doing.
Daily weighing is a method of consistent self-monitoring giving you more control of managing your weight. It helps you to “catch” when you’re weight begins to go up on the scale soon enough before it can get out-of-hand. It also makes you more conscious of what you’re eating thus reinforcing behaviors that led to the weight lost to begin with or what’s working in keeping the weight remaining stable.
If you step on the scale and you’ve gained weight, you can think about what happened the day before to cause it. From there, make adjustments where needed such as reducing portion sizes, frequency of snacking, or eating out, and instead choose more healthier foods and increase exercise. If your weight is going in the right direction or remaining stable, that’s positive reinforcement telling you to keep up the good work.
2. Daily physical activity
Any person who has lost weight and has kept it off will tell you regular physical activity is absolutely essential in accomplishing this goal. The National Weight Control Registry keeps track of people who have lost at least 30 pounds of weight and have kept it off for at least a year. Daily physical activity is one of the characteristics ranking high in their success rate.
The key is once you’ve lost the weight, exercise needs to continue - no excuses or finding reasons why you can’t do it. Exercise should be viewed no differently than what daily brushing of your teeth is. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week or a combination of both.
Find your niche of what you enjoy doing mixing it up with different types of physical activity.
Include aerobic exercise – walking, jogging, running, bicycling, swimming, hiking. Include strength training exercise – lifting weights, push-ups and pull-ups. Include flexibility – yoga, Pilates, stretching. By incorporating aerobics, strength training and flexibility into your daily physical activity, this gives you a well-rounded exercise routine getting you and keeping you in shape.
3. Having self-efficacy
A key factor necessary to keep the weight lost gone for good is self-efficacy. A research article in the Journal of Obesity addressed this important behavior for successful weight maintenance.
Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability and capacity to accomplish a goal or to deal with the challenges of life. Losing weight is an accomplishment. But if you lack trust in yourself or personal control in maintaining this achievement, it’s quite easy to fall back into old habits putting you right back where you started from.
Various setbacks in maintaining weight loss can challenge your self-efficacy. One example is eating more than you should on a given day. If you have self-efficacy, you view the setback as an opportunity to learn how to deal with it better next time, not allowing it to completely undo your weight loss efforts.
Self-efficacy is gradually increased as you lose weight. You see and feel the results of this achievement. You see important strides in improvements to your health. You identify the techniques that allowed you to achieve this goal of losing weight. As the weight is lost and you reach your goal, you are proving to yourself that you can revamp your lifestyle to be consistent with maintaining a healthy weight.
Putting it all together
After going through the effort of losing weight, maintaining your new weight will be your next worthwhile goal.
By making use of frequent weighing, daily exercise and having self-efficacy, along with a healthy dose of discipline and self-control, you can and will be successful at sustaining your weight loss and moving on into a new phase of wellness.