Ask the Coaches: How Do I Maintain Weight Loss After Dieting?
I just finished 90 days of all-out effort to transform my body. I worked out religiously 5 days a week and counted every calorie, and I’m so excited by my results. I lost 15 pounds of fat and gained 3 pounds of muscle. I look and feel better than I have in years.
Sadly, though, this wasn’t my first rodeo. A few years ago, I went on what my husband called my “health kick” and lost even more weight (though I didn’t track my muscle vs. fat loss). But after a few months, I started skipping a workout here or there (for up to a week at a time), and while my eating was still cleaner than most people I know, I was not as strict as over the last three months. It didn’t take long before I regained ALL the weight I lost — plus a few extra pounds.
I’m so happy with my current results, and I know I can lose more when I put my mind to it — but I’m so concerned about history repeating itself. I don’t want to start all over again!
Is it possible to maintain weight loss? HOW?!
A: Marnie, we so appreciate your honest question because you are far from alone. At best, only 10% to 20% of dieters maintain weight loss over the long term. Because as you know, real life can interrupt an exercise routine or diet plan pretty easily, and old habits often die hard. Plus, if you were following a low-calorie, restrictive diet on your health kick a while back, you likely lost muscle as well as fat.
We’ll get into all that and more in just a moment, but first of all, allow me to congratulate you on your excellent results over the last 90 days — especially your muscle gain with fat loss. That’s not easy to accomplish and shows that you already have a good program to put you on the road to long-term success.
It also sounds like you have a strong mindset, and you are not looking at this latest diet as a quick fix. Instead, you’re looking for long-term, lasting success, which results from lifestyle changes rather than a short-term diet. And that mindset is a big key to keeping the weight off.
So, you’re already off to a great start. And fortunately, success leaves clues. We can all learn from those who have succeeded in the past, like you.
Here are 10 more strategies to help you maintain weight loss AFTER the diet.
The 10 Best Tips to Maintain Weight Loss
1) Keep Moving Consistently
While exercise — especially in the absence of purposeful dietary changes– is not the best way to lose weight, it is one of the best ways to maintain weight loss. This is because exercise not only burns calories while you do it, it also helps increase muscle as well as creating an afterburn effect (for weight training and interval training especially). That means you’ll boost your metabolism and burn even more calories throughout the day.
It doesn’t even take that much activity to maintain your weight. Research suggests at least 200 minutes a week (about a half hour a day) to help keep off the weight. The important thing is to keep moving and stay moving. Keep to your regular exercise program using the tips, tricks, and tools you used during the last 90 days to stay consistent. That likely includes scheduling your workouts and knowing when and where you’ll exercise each day.
2) Enjoy Sound Sleep
Sleep doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserves. In our fast-paced, crazy world, it’s often one of the first things to go when time gets tight, (When isn’t time tight?) That’s just crazy, as sleep is critical to a long and healthy life. It can boost memory, attention, and creativity. It can promote immunity and regeneration (i.e., help you recover). And when it comes to weight maintenance, it can enhance athletic performance, improve carbohydrate metabolism and metabolic function, and it can help regulate your hunger hormones—all to help you maintain your new healthy weight.
Lack of sleep, on the other hand, appears to promote weight gain. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can decrease glucose tolerance, decrease insulin sensitivity, and affect other hormones that promote hunger and appetite. And let’s face it, when you’re tired, it’s hard to get motivated for exercise, and you’re more likely to make poor food choices as well.
So, remember to schedule a good seven to eight hours of sleep at night to continue to support your healthy metabolism and maintain weight loss.
3) Seek Support
It’s easier to do just about anything when you have strong social support. In the upcoming months and years, you’ll have ups and downs. If you have a buddy — or better yet, a community — you can share goals, celebrate successes, share delicious and healthy recipes, and even try new workouts together. Perhaps most importantly, when you do run into an obstacle, you’ll have people to turn to who understand and can help you weather the storms of temptation, setbacks, and procrastination.
Because we know the importance of support and community (and that it’s not always easy to find), we’ve created our own private VIP community, which we’d love you to join if you haven’t already. You’ll find people from all walks of life there to encourage and support you when things are going well and when they’re not.
4) Find a Healthy Balance
Did you know that even physique athletes, such as bodybuilders and bikini models, rarely, if ever, maintain their super-low body fat percentage year-round? Most absolutely do train hard and eat well throughout the year. Yet, once they have a contest or photo shoot on the schedule, they kick their training and nutrition to 11 for their pre-contest preparation, yet that phase typically lasts only 90 days or less.
If you’re not looking at becoming a physique athlete, how is this relevant? Well, it’s important to find the right training and nutrition plan as well as weight and body fat percentage for you to enjoy your personal lowest LIVABLE weight. Sure, you may be able push yourself to “on stage” shape for a time, but is that livable and sustainable for the long term? Setting reachable and realistic goals for a healthy balance is a good place to start by providing healthy boundaries and balance.
5) Eat Plenty of Protein
You’ll read this recommendation in the BioTrust blog time and time again. This is because eating a higher protein diet has been shown to not only boost metabolism, it also reduces appetite, so it’s easier to maintain weight loss over the long run. Shooting for about .75 grams per pound of body weight is a good goal, and that can be obtained pretty easily with a wide variety of foods—from plants to protein powders to dairy and meat. Here are 10 tips to easily eat more protein.
6) Take Measurements
According to an old proverb (or depending on where you look a quote from Peter Drucker), “What gets measured gets managed.” And this is as true of maintaining weight loss as it is of business practices. By weighing yourself on a scale or taking measurements with calipers or a tape measure, you’ll remind yourself of where you are, which can help you stay motivated and on track (or let you know quickly if you’ve started playing too fast and loose, so you can get back on track). It’s an accountability tool that can be used to maintain weight loss.
One study, for example, found that self-monitoring produced “clinically significant weight loss.”
7) Overcome Obstacles (by Planning Ahead)
If there’s one constant in life, it’s change, and things will happen that will get in the way of your progress or maintenance. The antidote? Know you’ll face obstacles and plan for them, so you have the tools you need to overcome them.
One simple, yet effective strategy is known as WOOP. It stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. While we’re taught that thinking positively is necessary for achieving our goals, research is showing that it may actually reduce the energy we need to put toward a positive future, predict lower health, and lessen self-development and well-being.
That doesn’t mean we need to stop thinking positively about the future (and start believing the worst). Instead, when visualizing a positive outcome, we just need to add a few more steps. After you decide on your wish or goal (maintaining your new healthy weight, for example), the next step is to determine the obstacles that could get in the way of keeping the weight off (for example, missing workouts, eating bigger portions of food, not eating enough protein or fiber). From that obstacle comes the plan to overcome the obstacle (e.g., schedule workouts in advance including where and when, eat off a smaller plate and avoid seconds, make a game of reaching my protein and fiber goals daily).
Decide what you’ll do now when faced with that obstacle in the future, so you can leap over it effortlessly.
8) Enjoy Your Vegetables
If there’s one thing virtually all nutritionists agree on, it’s that eating a variety of colorful vegetables is good for you. They are nutrient-dense (as they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and underappreciated phytochemicals) and typically sparse in calories. In one study, women who ate a salad before eating a meal ate 23% more vegetables, which was also linked to eating fewer calories (and was key to maintain weight loss).
According to other studies, those vegetables and fruits with higher amounts of fiber appear to help the most, as they increase satisfaction and decrease hunger after a meal.
9) Keep Your Body Hydrated
You know drinking enough water is important for your health, but how does it help you maintain your weight loss? First, enjoying a glass or two of water before a meal can prevent you from eating when you’re not hungry (it’s common to mistake thirst for hunger), yet it can also help you feel fuller before eating, which can help prevent you from eating too much. One study, for example, found that the folks who drank water before they ate a meal ate 13% fewer calories compared to those who didn’t.
Another study demonstrated that the less hydrated subjects were, the more likely they were to have a higher body mass index. Keep your body hydrated by sipping at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day and add an extra glass before each meal. This is an important key to maintaining weight loss.
10) Set New Goals
One reason you were able to reach your body transformation goals is because you set goals in the first place. So, it isn’t surprising that those folks who are the most successful don’t just celebrate their success — they set a new compelling goal to keep them moving forward. By setting (and “WOOP”ing) our goals, it helps us stay focused on making progress. If you’ve already achieved your weight loss goals, you could look at a performance goal next. Maybe you want to increase the weights you are lifting? Perhaps you’d like to compete in an obstacle race? What new goal do YOU want to accomplish?