How to Maintain Weight Loss

› Maintain Weight Loss

Hi Beth,
About 3 1/2 years ago, I started a weight loss program, low-carb very healthy diet and exercise.

Over a 2 year period I lost over 60 pounds (194  to 128). This is an average weight for me. I'm 5'5" and just over 60. I was able to stay between 128-130 for about 6-8 months, exercising 7 days a week and maintaining my diet. If I gained a couple of pounds, I could lose it.

A year ago, we took a 10 day vacation where I ate bread, butter, desserts as well as healthy foods. In 10 days I gained 8 pounds. Over the next 12 months I was able to lose only 3 lbs.

Vacation again this year - 2 weeks, gained 6 pounds. I am now 9-10 lbs over my target weight. In the past month I have lost none of the weight.

I eat low fat cottage cheese, lots of salad and vegetables, with extra virgin olive oil, lean meats, eggs, some beans, some milk and cheese. No bread, grains, sugar. Probably about 1100-1300 calories a day. I walk 10,000 steps a day and work out an hour a day: elliptical, weights or yoga.

What can I do to stop the weight gain? It's depressing to constantly be on a diet and not lose any weight.

Pauline

Hi Pauline,

Wow, isn’t that the million-dollar question.

Millions of people struggle to maintain weight loss after a diet. But before I get into an answer, there are two things I want to say.

Firstly, have you been checked out by your doctor. Whilst it is unlikely there will be anything wrong, especially if you haven’t had any other symptoms, there are a few conditions that can make weight loss difficult, so it is worth ruling them out.

Obviously, if your visit does throw up any issues, medical advice MUST be followed over and above any other advice.

The second thing I wanted to say, and no less important, is, a big well done. 

You’ve not only managed to lose a significant amount of weight you’ve stuck to your healthy lifestyle, even though you’re not seeing the results you want on the scale.

It can be so frustrating, when you’re doing everything right, but you’re not seeing any progress. Believe me, I know that frustration all too well.

It can be soul crushing.

So, really, well done to you.

Healthy eating and regular exercise have benefits over and above weight loss so it is worth it, I promise.

Having said that, you want to lose a bit of weight, and be able to maintain weight loss, so, let’s see if we can get you there. 

Maintain Weight Loss: The Problem

Before we get into the how to, I want to take a minute to explain why it is so hard.

It will help, I promise.

To lose weight you need an energy deficit. That comes from reducing what you eat and increasing the amount you move. Your body then turns to it’s fat stores for the missing energy and you lose weight.

But as time goes on your body will adapt. Your metabolism will slow down, you’ll need less calories and to carry on losing weight you’ll have to increase the energy deficit further. 

Maintain Weight Loss: Effect of Calorie Reduction on Metabolism

So, you eat a bit less and move a bit more.

But the cycle will continue. Your body will adapt again. Your metabolism will slow down again. And you will stop losing weight until you drop your calories again.

This is the normal process of dieting and weight loss and is to be expected. The problem comes when you reach your target weight and try to go back to a normal(ish) way of eating.

And it’s a problem because your metabolism is still low. It’s still burning calories at a rate of, let’s say 1200 per day. So, if you consume more than that, and who could blame you if you did, you’ll have an energy surplus, and that gets stored as fat.

And the weight comes back on.

It’s not unusual for dieters to put all of their lost weight back on. Sometimes even more.

I hear it so often, I’m eating a healthy diet. Not eating much. Exercising regularly. That’s all very well and good, but if you’re eating more calories than your body can burn, you will put on weight. 

Maintain Weight Loss: Effect of Calorie Reduction on Metabolism, what happens after a diet

Maintain Weight Loss: The Solution

So, are you just destined to be fat? To put all of the weight back on?

Not, necessarily. But the problem with most diets, weight loss plans, get thin quick techniques, is that they don’t teach you how to get back to your normal way of life. They don't teach you to maintain weight loss. So, you feel like you have to keep eating as you did whilst you were on the diet.

But the trick is to fire up your metabolism again.

And you do that by reverse dieting.

As the name suggests you do the opposite of what you did on the diet. You start to eat more, but the key is to do it slowly, so your metabolism can keep up.

And by slowly, I mean slowly.

Start with an extra 100 calories a day. So, if you’re eating 1200 calories a day to maintain your weight, increase that to 1300 a day for a week and monitor how that affects your weight. If it remains the same add another 100 calories the week after.  

How to Maintain Weight Loss - Reverse Dieting

Make sure you keep your exercise the same.

Hopefully you’ll get to a point where you can eat 1800-2000 calories a day, and, maintain weight loss. 

Where to get your calories from?

You mentioned you were on a low carb diet.

Whilst low carb diets can be very effective at getting weight off, you don’t really want to be sustaining that way of eating for the long term.

An extended time on low carbs can see the body down regulate some hormonal systems, including thyroid, which is needed for a healthy metabolism.

I know there is a general fear surrounding carbs these days. But honestly, they are not bad for you. Too many of the wrong carbs are bad for you.

If you find carbs make you sleepy, then save them to the end of the day. They will help you drift off to sleep nicely.

There is a caveat, as usual, if you have a medical condition that would benefit from a low carb diet, e.g. pre-diabetes, then that would trump what I’ve mentioned above.

Otherwise, start  increasing your carb intake, slowly. Maybe a banana after dinner.

If your calories allow, a sliced banana with some melted dark chocolate, sprinkled with cinnamon is a lovely desert.

I know you’re a bit heavier than you want to be at the moment, but it is worth going through this process before trying to lose the weight.

Losing weight on more calories will be far easier.

But remember to reverse diet again once you’re down to your target weight.

Maintain Weight Loss: Muscle Gain

There is one other thing I wanted to mention, and that is muscle gain.

If you start eating more calories and you carry on exercising, especially if you’re doing resistance exercise (which you definitely should be), then you will probably gain muscle.

I’ve said it before, and no doubt I will say it again, muscle isn’t something to be scared of. You won’t look like a body builder, or manly.

It takes years of specific training, and a very regimented diet to become a body builder. No-one does it ‘accidently’.

Having muscle is good. It will give you an ‘athletic’ look. It helps reduce the risk of injury. It helps to boost your metabolism. And, it will keep you active and healthy well into old age.

The only thing is, muscle does weigh more than fat. So, you may get to a point where your weight is going up, but your clothes aren’t any tighter. Your measurements are the same. You look a bit more ‘toned’.

That’s where most people want to be. 

Maintain Weight Loss: Your Plan

So, that’s your action plan to maintain weight loss. 

Increase your calories slowly, starting with carbs.

Keep everything else the same, exercise, the food you’re eating etc. and keep monitoring how it’s affecting you. Not just on the scales, but how you feel.

Hopefully you’ll be able to relax a bit on your next holiday and enjoy some delicious food.

I hope that helps, but if there’s anything else you want to know, you know where I am.

Good Luck

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