Congratulations: You worked hard to hit your goal weight and you made it.
However, maintaining weight loss might be harder than you think. Research presented at The Endocrine Society’s annual conference found just 14% of those who lost moderate amounts of weight (defined as 10–15% of their original body mass index) maintained their weight loss; among those who lost less than 10% of their original BMI, only 23% maintained their weight loss.
Instead of letting months (or years) of hard work disappear in a haze of skipped workouts and sweet-tasting rewards, beware of these common pitfalls that could cause you to regain weight:
FOLLOWING A FAD DIET
The promise of quick weight loss might make it seem worthwhile to consume nothing but low-calorie shakes or cabbage soup. Chelsea Cross, RD, a dietitian with Dietetic Directions warns you might lose a lot of weight on a fad diet but dramatic calorie restriction is impossible to maintain long-term.
“Any plan that restricts a large food group simply because it’s off limits or too high in calories … is not something that can be stuck to,” Cross says. “You’ll eventually eat those forbidden foods and, because of the deprivation, will overeat them.”
Instead of adopting a fad diet or prioritizing quick weight loss, Cross suggests setting realistic weight-loss goals; eating a balanced diet that includes all of the food groups; and focusing on changing your lifestyle, not just your diet. These strategies, she says, help you achieve long-term, sustainable weight loss.
Whether you showed up for boot camp at the crack of dawn, squeezed in a run on your lunch hour or invested in a personal trainer to keep you motivated, the hard work paid off.
Once you hit your weight-loss goal, you might think you deserve a break from those high-intensity sweat sessions, but skipping workouts is a bad idea. Taking a two-week break from your exercise routine significantly reduces cardiovascular fitness and lean muscle mass, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Anthony J. Wall, MS, a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise, notes that skipping workouts may make it harder to get back into an exercise routine.
STICKING TO THE SAME WORKOUT PROGRAM
Running the same 3-mile route or choosing the same settings on the elliptical trainer might have helped you shed unwanted pounds, but continuing with the same workout is going to make it difficult to maintain your weight loss. After you lose weight, you need to switch up your workouts, says Wall.
“When you follow a consistent exercise program, your body gets more efficient and you stop [burning as many calories],” he explains. “You have to take the intensity up a notch if you want to maintain your weight loss.”
Changing the number of repetitions in your strength-training program, adding high-intensity interval training to your cardio workout or checking out new classes like Pilates and aerial yoga instead of showing up for the same Zumba class each week ensures you don’t see the weight you lost start creeping back on.
HAVING TROUBLE SLEEPING
If you struggle with sleeplessness, it might be harder to maintain weight loss. Sleeping less than six hours per night was associated with higher rates of obesity; and additional research found shorter amounts of sleep were linked to larger waistlines.
“Insufficient sleep can disrupt hormonal levels that are responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness,” explains Natalie Dautovich, PhD, National Sleep Foundation Environmental Scholar and assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The more time you spend awake, the more opportunities you have to eat — and you’re more apt to reach for high-calorie snack foods than fruits and vegetables when you’re exhausted, Dautovich says.
To maintain weight loss, aim for 7–9 hours of sleep per night. You can increase the odds of getting a good night’s rest by sticking to regular sleep/wake times and going to bed in a cool, dark environment.
Keeping the number on the scale from creeping up takes some work, but the effort will be worth it when your favorite jeans continue to fit like a glove.