For the average person, weight loss isn’t all that hard. In fact, millions of people each and every year are able to lose weight. The hard part is maintaining your fat loss transformation and you keep the lean, hard body you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
In fact, it’s estimated that up to 95% of people who lose weight end up regaining it within one to five years. To make matters worse, up to two-thirds of those individuals gain more weight than they initially lost dieting.
To help you shed fat and keep it off for good, we’ve created a list of our best weight loss maintenance tips.
10 Tips to Help Keep Weight Off After Dieting
Remain Physically Active
Studies have shown that maintaining high levels of physical activity (>250 minutes of exercise per week) are vital to long-term weight loss success.[2,3]
Another review noted that one hour of exercise a day is optimal for individuals seeking to maintain their fat loss transformation. And data from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) found that successful dieters maintain an activity level of ~2800 kcal per week.
Exercise helps us burn calories and boost our metabolism. Regular physical activity is also important for joint health and cognitive function too. So, in addition to its benefits for helping avoid weight regain, why not take advantage of all of the other benefits that exercise has to offer?!
Support and accountability play a huge part in your initial success losing weight and they become that much more important after your body transformation is complete. In fact, studies have shown that having an accountability buddy may be helpful for long-term weight loss maintenance, all the more so if that person is a partner or spouse whose ideas for a healthy lifestyle align with yours.
Weigh Yourself Regularly
Stepping on a scale regularly to check your body weight may help you maintain your weight loss. Researchers have found that individuals who weigh themselves regularly have better weight maintenance behaviors and tend to fewer calories throughout the day.[6,7]
How frequently you weigh yourself is a matter of personal choice. A couple times per week is more than enough to get an idea if you are successfully maintaining weight loss.
Continue Tracking Food Intake
Knowing how many calories you eat in a day and how many calories your body requires to maintain its weight are important to help keep weight off. Nutrition trackers, like MyFitnessPal, are useful because they help you remain cognizant of what you are really eating each and every day, telling you how many calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat you eat in a day.
In addition to engaging in physical activity, researchers have also found that individuals who consistently track their food intake experience higher levels of success with maintaining their weight loss results than those who only do it every now and then.
That being said, a nutrition tracking app is only as effective as the person inputting the data. If you take little nibbles of food throughout the day (i.e. cupcakes in the breakroom at the office) and don’t account for it in your tracker, the tracker is not to blame.
One of the first things people do when starting a diet is overhaul their nutrition plan and remove all of the “bad” foods from their diet. Yet, once they’ve lost the amount of fat they wanted to, they go back to their old eating habits.
That bag of potato chips that was off limits two months ago can now be found again in their pantry.
Do you see the problem here?
The occasional treat or cheat meal is ok, but if you’re serious about maintaining your body transformation results do not keep any of those high calorie, “trigger” foods in the house.
By not keeping them in the house, you force yourself to drive out and go get them if your craving gets bad enough. When faced with the option of having to go sit in traffic and wait in line at the store, you’ll find out if those cheat foods are really worth the added hassle.
Keep Stress In Check
Stress is a part of everyday life and something we all have to face. While we may not be able to completely eliminate stress from our lives, we can take steps to limit the amount of stressors we encounter.
More importantly, we can also control how we respond when we’re faced with a stressful situation.
Often times when we’re stressed, we seek out sugary, salty, and/or fatty foods which might make us feel better temporarily, but they come at a high price of calories and a considerable lack of micronutrients.
In these times when we’re stressed, instead of resorting to food to fix our issues, why not adopt healthier alternatives to combating stress like meditation, walking through nature, breathing drills, yoga, or even getting away for a warm cup of tea.
Get Sufficient Sleep
Sleep is essential to our ability to perform at a high level in the gym or at the office, and it’s paramount to our ability to recover from our long days too. But, sleep is also important for maintaining a healthy body composition as well.
When we are sleep deprived, cortisol levels are higher, insulin sensitivity is worse, and our appetite-hunger hormones are disrupted.[9,10] This is the perfect recipe for diet disaster and weight gain.
People who don’t get enough sleep have been found to have lower levels of leptin -- a hormone that tells our brains we’ve had enough to eat.
Moreover, lack of sleep also means we have less energy or motivation to exercise. As we said above, maintaining regular exercise habits is crucial to successful weight loss maintenance.
Focus on getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble getting to sleep, try avoiding blue light 1-2 hours before bed, turning down the temperature in your room, using blackout curtains, and establishing a bedtime ritual to help your body calm down and realize it’s time to sleep.
Eat Plenty of Protein & Vegetables
Protein and vegetables help keep us full while simultaneously providing our bodies with essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants we need to remain strong, fit, healthy, and lean.
They’re incredibly satiating, and numerous studies have found associations between those who consume high amounts of protein and vegetables and weight loss control.[11,12,13]
As an added benefit, thanks to the high thermic effect of food of protein, consuming a higher protein diet helps your body burn more calories than if you had eaten an isocaloric amount of carbohydrates or fats.
Every meal you eat, make sure to have a serving of protein and at least 1-2 servings of non-starchy vegetables.
Become a Great Cook
When you cook your own food, you know exactly what goes into it, and how many calories it contains. You don’t have to worry about sources of hidden calories (oils, sugars, etc.) that are rampant in packaged foods and restaurant meals.
Cooking healthy meals doesn’t have to become complicated, frustrated, or expensive. You can make delicious and affordable meals right in your very home. All it requires is a little time and effort on your part.
But, by learning to cook, and becoming proficient at it, you’ll have the tools needed to help keep your diet in check and make sure everything you eat is in line with your goals of keeping the fat off for good.
Avoid Weekend Binges
Once people transition for dieting to maintenance, they tend to loosen the reigns a bit too much, especially on the weekends. Just as was the case with dieting, two days of really poor nutritional decision (i.e. weekend binges), can undo five days of consistent work during the week.
The same is true when it comes to keeping the weight off after your fat loss transformation.
While you don’t have to be as restrictive as you were when dieting, you don’t want to be shoveling back handfuls of sweets in your free time either. As we said before, a (small) indulgence here and there is fine. But, it shouldn’t be everyday and when you do indulge, keep it reasonable.
Then, after you’ve had your sweet treat, make sure you’re right back to your nutrition plan for the next meal.
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- Mann, T. et al. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. The American Psychologist, 62, 3, 220–233
- Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Church TS. The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014;56(4):441–447. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2013.09.012
- Donnelly, J. E., Blair, S. N., Jakicic, J. M., Manore, M. M., Rankin, J. W., & Smith, B. K. (2009). American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(2), 459–471. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181949333
- Wing, R. R., & Phelan, S. (2005). Long-term weight loss maintenance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1 Suppl), 222S-225S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/82.1.222S
- Klem M, Wing RR, McGuire M, Seagle H, Hill J. A descriptive study of individuals successful at long-term maintenance of substantial weight loss. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:239–46.
- Steinberg DM, Tate DF, Bennett GG, Ennett S, Samuel-Hodge C, Ward DS. The efficacy of a daily self-weighing weight loss intervention using smart scales and e-mail. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21(9):1789–1797. doi:10.1002/oby.20396
- Steinberg DM, Bennett GG, Askew S, Tate DF. Weighing every day matters: daily weighing improves weight loss and adoption of weight control behaviors. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(4):511–518. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.12.011
- 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
- Donga, E., van Dijk, M., van Dijk, J. G., Biermasz, N. R., Lammers, G.-J., van Kralingen, K. W., Romijn, J. A. (2010). A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy subjects. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 95(6), 2963–2968. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2009-2430
- Beccuti G, Pannain S. Sleep and obesity. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011;14(4):402–412. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283479109
- Champagne CM, Broyles ST, Moran LD, et al. Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance trial. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(12):1826–1835. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2011.09.014
- Boeing H, Bechthold A, Bub A, Ellinger S, Haller D, Kroke A, et al. Critical review: vegetables and fruit in the prevention of chronic diseases. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(6):637–663. doi: 10.1007/s00394-012-0380-y.
- Bertoia ML, Mukamal KJ, Cahill LE, et al. Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies [published correction appears in PLoS Med. 2016 Jan;13(1):e1001956]. PLoS Med. 2015;12(9):e1001878. Published 2015 Sep 22. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878