For many individuals, losing weight isn’t the hard part -- it’s maintaining, or keeping the weight off once its lost that is the struggle.
And, if we’re being honest, it’s not the easiest thing to do.
Research shows that ~90% of people who lose a significant amount of weight eventually regain it back (and then some).
But, it’s not entirely possible to keep the weight off once you have lost it.
And, that’s where this article comes in.
To help you keep the pounds off for the long haul, we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 ways to prevent a weight-loss rebound.
Try one, two, three, or all of them (at some point or another) so that you can keep the weight off for good and never have to worry about a weight-loss transformation again!
Top 10 Tips to Prevent a Weight-Loss Rebound
A number of studies, reviews, and meta-analyses (studies of studies) have been conducted over the past decade-plus and found that a trio of factors play a huge role in preventing weight gain rebound.[2,3,4]
Those three factors are:
- Regularly checking bodyweight
- Tracking nutrition
- Maintaining high levels of physical activity
As you’re about to see, many of the tips on this list revolve around those three pillars of weight loss maintenance.
Watch Your Diet
As you know, weight loss is primarily driven by your diet, meaning that you must consume fewer calories than your burn if you want to lose weight.
As such, it should come as no surprise that if you want to keep weight regain from happening, you need to be cognizant of your eating habits.
Quite often, individuals find themselves overeating when they are stressed or distracted.
This makes sense as chronic elevations in cortisol (the “stress” hormone), disrupt hormones in the body, which make us feel hungrier, and less satiated following a meal.
These extra calories can lead to “weight creep” over the months and years following your weight loss.
To prevent this from happening, be mindful of your nutrition -- what foods you are eating, how much of them you are eating, and how you feel after eating those foods.
Weigh Yourself Regularly
As we just mentioned above, one of the keys to successful weight-loss maintenance is keeping an eye on your body weight.
The reason for this is that research has shown that individuals who regularly weigh themselves (i.e. daily) typically do a better job of keeping the pounds off long-term.
You don’t need to go overboard with tracking your weight (e.g. stepping on the scale five times per day). But you should do it at least a handful of times per week, and then take a weekly average.
This way you can see how your weight is trending over the weeks following your transformation challenge.
Weight can fluctuate pretty significantly throughout the day as well as from one day to the next. Things like water intake, sodium intake, and carbohydrate intake can impact the number on the scale.
By taking your weight at the same time everyday (i.e. immediately upon waking after using the bathroom), and calculating a weekly average, you are able to get a “truer” grasp of where your bodyweight is and if it is trending up, down, or staying the same (maintenance).
Individuals who maintain a high level of physical activity (45-60 minutes each day) fair better over the long-term when trying to maintain their weight than individuals who do not.
Fitness isn’t meant to be a sprint. It’s a marathon.
As such, after you’ve already lost the weight you wanted to lose, keeping physically active will help keep your metabolism high, support muscle mass, and limit fat gain as you increase your calorie intake following dieting.
Keep Training Varied
As important as physical activity (exercise) is to preventing weight-loss rebound, you don’t want to get stuck in a rut with your training.
For example, if you are exercising 6 days per week, all six days should not be the same form of exercise (such as running, jogging, cycling).
The reasons for this are many, but to name just a few reasons why you don’t want to perform the exact same workout day after day:
- It can lead to a plateau in performance and progress
- It can lead to overuse injuries
- It doesn’t allow for adequate recovery or muscle growth
- It’s BORING
Your weekly training should include a mix of both resistance-training and cardiovascular exercise.
Resistance-training helps build strength and “tone” muscles, while cardio helps improve circulation as well as the function of your heart and lungs to pump blood, which pays dividends into your resistance-training workouts.
Varying your workouts also helps prevent training plateaus, overuse injuries, and it makes exercising more enjoyable and sustainable, which is crucial to long-term fitness.
Much like having an accountability or training partner during your transformation challenge can improve adherence and success, so to does having support in the weeks and years of weight loss.
Couples research has shown that when one person engages in a healthy habit (e.g. healthy eating, regular exercise, etc.), their partner is more likely to follow their example and join in.
The takeaway here is that having a significant other or close friend can help you stick to your diet and exercise plan over the long haul, and they may also help you to push harder in your workouts, which leads to better results!
Keep Stress In Check
No matter how “zen” we may try to be, we are all fallible to stress of some kind or another, be it work, family, finances, or social demands.
While each of our stressors may come from a different source, they all lead to an increase in the “stress hormone” -- cortisol.
In short bursts (such as during a workout), cortisol is not only beneficial, but necessary to perform to the best of your abilities.
But, like most things in life, cortisol is a dual-edged sword.
Acute spikes in cortisol are fine, but chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to weight-loss rebound through a variety of mechanisms.
For starters, chronically elevated cortisol disrupts hunger and satiety cues in the body by way of interfering with the production of ghrelin and leptin. Basically, chronic stress makes us feel hungrier during the day and less satisfied from a meal after we eat it.
Moreover, chronic stress also increases our craving for high-calorie foods, particularly the sugary, salty, and fatty kind of food (chips, cookies, french fries, etc.).
Stress also disrupts fat metabolism and encourages fat gain, predominantly around the abdomen (read: belly fat).
While stress may not be entirely avoidable in life, you can improve your response to stress through a variety of different means including:
- Breathing drills
- Listening to calming music
You can also try some other fun “stress relieving” activities like the batting cages or driving range.
Whatever helps you keep calm, cool, and collected will pay dividends towards helping you prevent weight-loss rebound.
Get Enough Sleep
Building off the previous point, one of the key contributors to chronically elevated cortisol levels is not getting enough sleep.
Sleep is absolutely essential to health and wellness as well as helping you avoid weight regain following a diet.
Not getting enough sleep makes us hungrier, moodier, less physically active, and less motivated or productive.
Sleep deprivation also disrupts energy metabolism in the body and can reduce how many calories we burn in a day, by way of decreasing our level of activity.
We’ve all experienced this at one time or another.
You don’t sleep particularly well one night, and the next day, you are cranky, irritable, hungry, and don’t really feel like doing much of anything.
If there’s one thing that we all can improve on this year, it’s placing a bigger priority on sleep, which not only improves mental and physical performance, but helps keep weight in check.
Consuming adequate protein is vital to building muscle and losing fat.
It comes as little surprise that eating enough protein each day is also critical to prevent weight-loss rebound.
The reason for this is that protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning it promotes fullness and helps reduce appetite.[7,8]
Protein also increases levels of certain hormones that boost satiety, which may help reduce the number of calories you consume each day.
Additionally, protein is also the most expensive macronutrient for your body to digest, meaning your body has to expend more energy to break down protein than either carbohydrates or fats.
Protein’s appetite-suppressing effects are most noticeable when it accounts for ~30-40% of total daily energy intake. For most individuals, this comes out to roughly 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
So, if you weigh 130 pounds, you would want to consume around 130 grams of protein each day.
Begin Meals with a Soup or Salad
Soups and salads are low-calorie options that not only serve as a vehicle to increase your vegetable intake, but they may also help prevent weight-loss rebound.
Research shows that consuming soup or salad prior to a meal reduces how many calories are eaten, which helps keep total daily calorie intake in check.[10,11]
The reason soup and salad helps reduce calorie intake is that these foods are typically low in calories, but high in food volume, thereby helping you feel fuller without blowing your diet.
The “catch” with soup and salad is that you need to limit how much dressing you use on the salad as well as what type of soup you get. Broth-forward soups (chicken soup, egg drop soup, vegetable soup) are low in calories, while creamy soups are very high in fat and calories, while also being low usually on vegetables.
When dining out, start your meal with a salad (dressing on the side, please) or a cup of broth-based soup.
Snack on Nuts
Fat has been unfairly demonized over the years, but the reality is that fat serves several important roles in the body, especially in regards to cell membrane health and hormone production.
Dietary fat also slows digestion (which helps increase satiety) and it makes food taste good.
The key with dietary fat is consuming the right type of fat.
One of our favorite ways to hit our fat macros is by snacking on a serving (1-1.5 ounces) of nuts.
Not only are nuts rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, but they also contain protein and fiber (which help reduce hunger) as well as a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Why It’s Difficult To Keep Weight Off, Scientist Share Weight Loss Study. (2017, April 12).
- Montesi L, El Ghoch M, Brodosi L, Calugi S, Marchesini G, Dalle Grave R. Long-term weight loss maintenance for obesity: a multidisciplinary approach. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2016;9:37–46. Published 2016 Feb 26. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S89836
- Hall KD, Kahan S. Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. Med Clin North Am. 2018;102(1):183–197. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012
- Varkevisser, R. D. M., van Stralen, M. M., Kroeze, W., Ket, J. C. F., and Steenhuis, I. H. M. ( 2019) Determinants of weight loss maintenance: a systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 20: 171– 211. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12772.
- Jackson, S. E., Steptoe, A., & Wardle, J. (2015). The influence of partner’s behavior on health behavior change: the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(3), 385–392. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554
- Ranabir S, Reetu K. Stress and hormones. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2011;15(1):18–22. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.77573
- Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., Nieuwenhuizen, A., Tome, D., Soenen, S., & Westerterp, K. R. (2009). Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annual Review of Nutrition, 29, 21–41.https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-080508-141056
- Soeliman FA, Azadbakht L. Weight loss maintenance: A review on dietary related strategies. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(3):268–275.
- Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373–385.
- Rolls, B., Roe, L., & Meengs, J. (2004). Salad and satiety: Energy density and portion size of a first-course salad affect energy intake at lunch. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104, 1570–1576. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2004.07.001
- Flood JE, Rolls BJ. Soup preloads in a variety of forms reduce meal energy intake. Appetite. 2007;49(3):626–634. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2007.04.002