You’ve Lost Weight, Now How Do You Keep It Off?

Losing weight is one thing, keeping the weight off is another. We’ve all heard about yo-yo dieting, know a friend who yo-yos and have probably bobbled ourselves. But it is possible to stay at your new, lower weight — and the more you’ve lost, the more likely you may be to maintain, according to a new study.

In this 2017 study, researchers split 177,000 adults into four categories: those who lost less than 5% of their BMI, those who lost 5–10%, those who lost 10–15% and those who lost more than 15% after six months. At the two-year follow-up, the people in the last group — the “high weight loss” group — were least likely to regain more than half of what they’d lost.

Here are four ways to help maintain your weight loss:

1. UNDERSTAND IT’S A LIFETIME COMMITMENT

“Weight loss isn’t an event, it’s a process,” says Sofia Rydin-Gray, PhD, a clinical psychologist and behavioral health director at Duke Diet and Fitness Center. “It’s not only about food and exercise — it’s about behaviors, emotions and our way of thinking. People who keep the weight off are able to stay focused and commit to prioritizing their health.”

This commitment may include staying active, watching fewer than 10 hours of TV a week, getting adequate sleep and eating breakfast, according to researchers with the National Weight Loss Registry.

2. PLAN REGULAR WEIGH-INS

“You have to continue the behaviors that helped you lose weight in the first place,” explains dietitian Georgie Fear, RD. “We look forward to being able to liberalize our diet and ease up on workouts after losing weight, but you can’t go overboard.” And that’s exactly why the changes you make while dieting need to be ones you can live with for life.

Another habit both the National Weight Loss Registry and experts recommend is continuing to weigh in on a regular basis. “I discourage daily weigh-ins because then you’re too focused on the scoreboard and not on the plays going on the court — what you’re choosing for lunch and dinner,” says Fear, who, along with Rydin-Gray, recommends getting on the scale once a week.

If you notice a significant gain, ask yourself why this happened — you likely know you were stressed, skipped your morning walks and turned to mint chocolate chip rather than calling your friend to talk it out. Then reflect on what helped you lose weight before. Refocus and recommit to those habits, and you’ll get back on track.

3. REMEMBER WHY YOU WANT TO BE HEALTHY

If it’s hard to return to healthier habits, take some time to recall your motivation for losing weight in the first place. “You can’t just be motivated by the scale,” Rydin-Gray says. “You really need to drill down and have frequent reminders of why this is important for you.”

Know that life may not be what you expected when you decided to lose weight. “Sometimes during the weight-loss phase, we have this idea that, ‘Wow, when I get to my goal weight, things will be better in my life — better at work, my romantic situation, I’ll have a great social life,’” Rydin-Gray says. “Then when we get to the maintenance phase, we realize life is pretty much the same as when it was when we were heavier.”

4. TURN TO YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK

One thing that can help all of us maintain an optimistic outlook and manage stress — and keep weight off — is a strong support network. Having people you can turn to provides accountability and helps you stick to your healthy lifestyle. “You need supportive people who can lift you up and bring you back to feeling confident,” Rydin-Gray says.

It’s particularly essential that anyone you share a kitchen with is on your side. “It’s so difficult to overcome a cookie habit when the person you live with has cookies every night,” Fear says. Beyond that, your support system can be anyone from friends and coworkers to dietitians and online communities. “Many people don’t have an in-real-life circle of friends that encourage them to be kind to themselves or try a new vegetable recipe,” Fear adds. So if you can find that virtually, take advantage of it.

No matter what, know you can keep the weight off. “There’s a mindset shift where taking care of yourself feels better and more important than giving in to any cravings or slacking off,” Rydin-Gray says. That may sound crazy when you start the weight-loss journey, but once you reach your goal and feel how good it feels, you’ll know it’s better than any ‘high’ a food can give you.