Once we achieve our target weight goal, inevitably our healthy eating habits start to wane and our waists start to expand again. Old habits die hard, especially when it comes to eating behaviors, which is why quick-fix diets don’t last and dieters end up regaining the pounds they initially lost. However, avoiding the weight gain after the weight loss for good is as simple as making long-term changes to your diet and lifestyle for life.
Dieting can increase the risk of gaining more weight if not done correctly. A 2007 study published in the journal American Psychologist found about two-thirds of dieters regained more weight within four or five years than they initially lost. The researchers believe calorie-restricting diets alone without the combination of exercise were not found to be an effective treatment for obesity.
Losing weight and keeping it off is not just about diet and exercise for a certain period of time, it becomes an integral part of your life. Dr. James L. Millhouse, a medical and clinical sports psychologist in Georgia, believes permanent weight loss comes only from a change in lifestyle. "That is thinking, choices (intellectual and emotional), and behavior, such as learning to like to make healthy food choices, learning to like to do the right amount of exercise," he told Medical Daily in an email.
Rather than drop the pounds and gain them a few weeks later, beat the odds with these five proven ways to lose weight and keep it off for good.
1. Keep A Food Journal
Keeping the weight off can be as simple as keeping a food journal. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 pounds more than those who did not. A food journal can help dieters meet daily calorie goals and maintain their weight because they’re paying closer attention to what they’re eating.
Lauren Harris-Pincus, a registered dietician and owner of Nutrition Starring You, believes a food journal can keep you aware and conscious. “It keeps you honest by making sure you are aware of your food choices and portion sizes, but also may deter you from choosing a higher calorie item knowing you need to write it down,” she told Medical Daily in an email.
2. Follow A Consistent Diet
Following the same diet every day may seem tiresome, but it is one of the best ways to maintain your body weight. A 2004 study published in the International of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders said those who followed the same diet every day compared to those who ate more on weekends and holidays than during the week were 1.5 times more likely to maintain their weight within 5 pounds over a year. Researchers believe allowing flexibility in the diet may increase exposure to “high-risk” situations that can lead to more opportunity for loss of control.
“Weight management is really a cumulative process,” Dr. Suzanne Fuchs, a foot and ankle surgeon and a nutrition and fitness expert in Manhattan and Long Island, N.Y., told Medical Daily in an email. Maintaining a steady and healthy diet and making eating healthy a habit is essential to not only achieve your weight loss goals but to maintain them, too.
3. Add A Low-Fat Protein Diet
Consuming a low-calorie, low-fat diet while doing high levels of physical activity and weighing yourself frequently has been associated with weight loss maintenance. Lean proteins are known to keep the body fuller longer while helping build healthy muscle. According to Fuchs, these proteins take longer to digest, which is why you will tend to feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time. Moreover, this will help you consume less calories during the way and help with overall weight loss and weight maintenance.
4. Eat Breakfast Every Day
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason. Always eating breakfast can help you maintain your weight loss goals. In a 2002 study published in the journal Obesity Research, eating breakfast every day of the week led to successful weight loss maintenance. Compared to non-eaters, breakfast eaters reported slightly more physical activity, which the researchers suspected contributed to their success.
Contrary to popular belief, skipping breakfast doesn’t lead to saving calories. According to Dr. Linda Everett of Everett Medical, a weight loss facility in Pennsylvania, this type of mentality sets dieters up for high calorie snacking or a larger lunch. “Breakfast doesn't mean a full course meal,” she told Medical Daily in an email. Everett suggests a 4- to 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt with a handful of fresh berries is just enough to start your day and provide calcium.
5. Be Active
Dieters who have been successful at keeping the weight off are not surprisingly more active than their counterparts. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found among adults who reported losing weight or trying to lose weight, 31 percent had been successful at both losing weight and maintenance after weight loss. Those who had always been at a healthy weight were more likely to engage in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity where more weight maintainers engaged in more than 60 minutes of exercise at a time.
This correlates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tips of maintaining weight loss by engaging in regular physical activity. Physical activity can reduce risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes beyond what weight loss can do on its own. To lose weight and keep it off, a high amount of physical activity should be done unless dieters also adjust their diet and reduce the amount of calories they’re eating and drinking. However, getting to and staying at a healthy weight requires both constant physical activity and a healthy eating plan.
Keeping the weight off may be harder than losing the weight, but the solution is a permanent change to a healthy lifestyle.