Whether it is your first time losing weight, or the tenth time, worrying about how to maintain weight loss is always going to be an issue. Most people know at least one person who has lost a substantial amount of weight only to gain it all back, plus more. It seems almost inevitable for a certain percentage of the population. In fact, studies show that ninety-five percent of diets fail and eighty percent of individuals gain back all the weight they have lost, plus more. For those who have lost weight only to gain it back, sometimes more than once, it can be extremely frustrating and disheartening. The constant up and down creates doubt and reinforces negative thoughts such as, “Maybe I’m just meant to be fat,” or “I’ll never be the size I want no matter what I do.” Although unintentional, repeating negative ideas over and over eventually creates your reality and then you really do feel like you are meant to be overweight and miserable. There is no single trick, or silver bullet for maintaining weight loss. The key comes primarily in the form of education.
The science behind why some individuals cannot seem to maintain weight loss is gaining momentum as studies reveal the complex relationship between weight gain, hormones and psychology. What the research seems to suggest is greater emphasis be placed on preventing weight gain in the first place rather than trying to play catch up. Once you become overweight your physiology changes and not for the better. As a species our instinct is to consume food when it is available and conserve. That is basic survival and worked out great for our hunter and gatherer ancestors but with the invent of agriculture food was much more readily available and of a much different caliber. While our genetics place us in a natural disposition the research also shows that education and old school ideas are what keep the weight off!
There are a number of hormones involved in hunger, satiety, weight loss, weight gain, metabolism, etc. Just to recap, the primary hormones involved in weight gain and weight loss include Grehlin, Leptin, Peptide YY, and the Thyroid hormones. Research shows that these hormones behave differently not just when you gain weight but when you lose weight as well. Furthermore, the physiologic changes seen in these hormones can last a number of years. This means that as you lose weight your body increases the hormones which make you more hungry and liable to store fat as well as making food appear more appealing to some individuals. The influence of this change seems to depend on certain genes and whether or not one, both or no copies are present in your DNA.
What is important to take away from this is not that the world is working against you and there is no possible way to maintain weight loss but rather that you can anticipate what is coming next. Anticipation is power. Anticipation will enable preparation for the coming change in physiology. While knowing what to expect is important understanding how to avoid re-gaining lost weight is also crucial. Since you will likely be hungrier it is very important to have lots of smaller healthy snacks on hand that can be eaten before a big meal or in between meals. This will decrease the likelihood of over eating at main meals and make the periods between meals much more tolerable. Decrease your calories by 300 to 500 per day. Your metabolism is now slower than the person who ways the same as you but did not have to lose weight so you must adjust caloric intake accordingly. While we stress how counting calories is unnecessary it is very easy to just eliminate one thing or a percentage of a main meal to meet a 300 calorie decrease per day.
Bottom line, here are a few things to practice in order to maintain weight loss:
Decrease caloric intake by 300 to 500 / day
Have healthy snacks to curb hunger
Regularly exercise 45 min/day 5 days/week
Avoid all starches and known sensitive food
Frequently eat nutrient dense foods
Get at least 6 hours of sleep per night
Avoid excess coffee and stimulants
Increase water consumption to 100 + ounces/day
Take longer than 10 minutes to eat meals
Take a multivitamin