Losing weight is straightforward: Eat fewer calories than you burn off and you’ll lose pounds. Period.
Any diet that helps you eat fewer calories than your body requires will help you lose pounds. Keeping the weight off, however, is another story. Fewer than 5 percent of those who lose at least 10 percent of their body weight have kept it off after a few years. That’s why most people think diets don’t work.
Despite what you hear, diets do work. It’s weight maintenance that’s not working.
That’s why obesity researchers are now focused on studies looking at the metabolic and hormonal differences that occur once you lose weight. Recent studies of those who have been able to keep pounds off for several years reveal that how we lose and how we maintain require very different approaches.
Here, five ways to stop weight regain:
Research shows that people who’ve successfully kept weight off exercise 60 to 90 minutes a day. More exercise is essential for successful weight maintenance because it helps counterbalance the drop in one’s metabolic rate that occurs when you lose weight. If you’re not that active right now, strive for 30 to45 minutes a day, most days a week. The best type exercise for helping you stay slimmer is a combination of aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training, and strength training.
Aerobic exercise helps burn calories, interval training results in greater boosts to your metabolic rate compared to lower intensity exercise, while strength training helps build muscle tissue, which burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissue. Since our muscles and cardiovascular system adapt to exercise workloads quickly, be sure to change up your routine frequently.
Monitor Your Weight Weekly
One of the other major habits of highly successful dieters is once-weekly weigh-ins to avoid letting pounds creep back. (It’s not necessary to weigh yourself more than once a week, unless you like weighing yourself more frequently.) Once dieters reach a goal weight, they often believe they can put their bathroom scale away once and for all. Not so fast. Remember, pounds come off slowly but are quick to pile back on. As soon as you see the needle headed north, do what you did to lose the weight in the first place, so you can quickly correct course.
Keep a Journal and Review It
While it’s not necessary to write everything down that you eat on a daily basis, keeping a diet journal either on paper or online helps you stay on track. One of the major reasons people regain lost weight is that they start eating the way they used to. Jotting down all meals and snacks will help you see first-hand what and how much you’re eating so you can identify what you’re doing right and wrong. If your journal shows that the berries and beans you ate when losing weight are replaced now with brownies and beer, those lost pounds are going to find you sooner or later.
Limit Dining Out and Drinking
Every meal eaten out ups your odds of gaining back pounds. Successful dieters tend to take control over what they eat, preparing most of their meals and snacks at home. If you limited meals out and drinking alcohol while you lost weight, you can’t expect to maintain that weight loss by frequenting restaurants and enjoying adult beverages more than a few times a week.
Eat a Protein-Packed Breakfast
One of the most consistent formulas for maintaining your leaner frame is eating a protein-rich breakfast. In fact, some studies suggest that replacing poor-quality carbohydrates with lean protein can help shift your metabolism and hunger hormones, making your goal weight easier to maintain At the very least, start your day right with a protein-packed meal that contains only low-glycemic carbs.
We recommend getting at least 20-30 grams protein as part of a 350-400 calorie breakfast for weight loss and maintenance. Some of my favorites that meet this guideline include egg and veggie omelet, 6 ounces nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, 2 slices whole wheat, high-protein bread, toasted with 1 Tbs nut butter and jam or protein pancakes made with almond butter, egg and banana.
Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD