What does successful weight loss maintenance look like?
This was one of the main questions I asked myself years ago. But first, I had to start my weight loss. To get an idea of what your ideal weight would be, you can have a look at your Body Mass Index (BMI) or your Waist-to-Height Ratio.
There are several studies dealing with this topic. Amongst all of them, the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is the most popular based in the USA. NWCR has been tracking people who have been successful at maintaining weight loss in the long term. Participants have maintained a weight loss of at least 13kg for more than a year. The average participant was 45 years old and the majority was female.
However, there was a lot of variation within this group: The weight loss range was between 14 kg and 136 kg. It was maintained at least for one year but there was also a participant maintaining his weight for more than 66 years. Some of them lost their weight very rapidly. Others have lost their weight quite slowly – over as many as 14 years. 55 % lost their excess weight with the help of a program and 77 % had a target day, e.g. their wedding date.
What do people change to keep their weight low?
- 98 % modified their food intake long term
- 94% increased their physical activity, with walking being the most frequently reported form of activity
- 78% eat breakfast every day
- 75% weigh themselves at least once per week
- 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week
- 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour a day
Other studies have the same findings. Plus, those maintaining their weight loss in the long term tend to avoid sweetened beverages and prefer water and low-/no-calorie beverages.
Which conclusions can we draw?
To make something clear: There is no „one fits all solution“. Everybody needs to find his/her own solution to lose weight as well as to maintain weight loss. If you have discovered your passion for sports while losing weight, you will be more likely to keep your new passion up, when reaching your desired weight. If you forced yourself to do some sports just to boost your weight loss, it’s going to be hard to maintain this new, healthy habit in your future daily life.
You need to know that you just can lose some weight eating fewer calories than you need. Either you eat fewer calories or you burn more calories. To keep your weight long-term, you need to find a perfect balance in your normal course of life.
Some tips and tricks on how to maintain your weight
Try to exercise more each day!
You don’t have to run a marathon each day but you can use your bicycle more often, walk more and use the stairs instead of the elevator. Personally, I avoid driving by car and use my bike or just walk. Exercising does not always have to be a hard workout. It is more important to keep moving. Try new sports. Some of us love jogging and cycling, others prefer tennis, swimming or going to the gym. Each workout is better than none. A workout buddy can help you stay motivated!
Eat more veggies and drink more water!
Veggies should play the main role in your nutrition. They provide you essential vitamins and have many benefits such as fiber. Fiber is essential for a healthy diet – read more here. Plus, you should drink a lot of water and unsweetened (no sugar) tea. More on that coming soon!
Avoid eating sweet snacks!
Soon, I’ll release a blog post about intermittent fasting. Having several snacks a day can add up to a whole meal regarding the consumed calories. Furthermore, all those snacks tend not to be healthy at all. Cereal and candy bars, cakes, sandwiches, etc. are full of sugar which increases our blood sugar levels unnecessarily. Of course, it’s the dose that makes the poison. The problem is, most of us tend to have an overdose. Plus, many people may have a wrong understanding of rewarding themselves – see here.
It’s all about “Keep going!”
Don’t be discouraged too soon!
Honestly, how long did it take you to gain all the weight you want to get rid of now? It hasn’t happened overnight. Nor will you lose all these pounds overnight. But isn’t it worth it to grit your teeth for 6 months and live more healthy for the rest of your life?
Don’t stress yourself!
Having stress is totally counterproductive to weight loss. Our body releases cortisol, a steroid stress hormone when being stressed. Having high cortisol levels is an indicator for the rest of our body to be alarmed due to evolution. Less important metabolic processes such as fat metabolism are shut down. Therefore, it is quite impossible to burn fat while being stressed. Plus, cortisol has been implicated as a factor in motivating food intake – even when you’re not starving. Each of us reacts differently to stress. Some of us even tend to lose weight but this is linked to people forgetting to eat while having chronic stress.
How do I maintain my weight loss?
More than 10 years ago, I’ve lost about 30 kg and I still maintain my weight. What’s my secret recipe? I’ve discovered my passion for doing sports. Plus, I avoid eating empty calories. Empty calories can be mainly found in processed food such as pasta, white bread, rice, sweets, juices, and sugar. I try to avoid all of them. Actually, I don’t even like these types of “food”. Furthermore, I’m quite rational considering food. Just as in my daily life: I avoid being surrounded by people who are not good for my soul and pull me down. I simply quit meeting them. For me, that’s the same procedure with food. If I eat something and feel bad or guilty afterward, you can be sure it was the last time the food will end up on my plate. I’m focusing on a wholefood plant-based, vegan diet.
Did you ever have a hangover because of one specific drink? 🙂 My worst hangover was fueled by Jägermeister – it’s a long story… Anyway, I can’t even smell Jägermeister since that day without getting sick. That’s quite similar to chocolate. I’ve eaten tons of sweets and chocolate as a child and teenager, often because of boredom. I’ve simply overeaten on all these candies. Now, I’m sick and tired of it. Plus, I know that sweets combined with too little exercise were the main reason for my obesity. Don’t make the same mistake twice. 🙂
Every step counts
Plus, I try walking 10.000 steps a day and eat well-balanced, plant-based. Sure, there are some days I prefer lying on the couch, having more than enough wine, and eat too much crap. But that’s not that bad if you know how to keep the balance all over.
What’s your personal secret recipe? Did you ever lose a lot of weight and had problems maintaining it? I’m looking forward to your experiences!
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Here’s the science-based evidence for this blog post
Weblink: National Weight Control Registry http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm
Catenacci, V. A./Odgen, L./Phelan, S./Thomas, J. G./Hill, J./Wing, R. R./Wyatt, H. 2014: Dietary habits and weight maintenance success in high versus low exercisers in the National Weight Control Registry, in: Journal of Physical Activity & Health, Vol. 11, 2014, No. 8, pp. 1540-1548.
Catenacci, V. A./Pan, Z./Thomas, J. G./Ogden, L. G./Roberts, S. A./Wyatt, H. R./Wing, R. R./Hill, J. O. 2014: Low/no calorie sweetened beverage consumption in the National Weight Control Registry, in: Obesity (Silver Spring), Vol. 22, 2014, No. 10, pp. 2244-2251.
Klem, M. L./Wing, R. R./McGuire, M. T./Seagle, H. M./Hill, J. O. 1997: A descriptive study of individuals successful at long-term maintenance of substantial weight loss, in: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 66, 1997, No. 2, pp. 239-246.
Ross, K. M./Thomas, J. G./Wing, R. R. 2016: Successful weight loss maintenance associated with morning chronotype and better sleep quality, in: Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 39, 2016, No. 3, pp. 465-471.
Shick, S. M./Wing, R. R./Klem, M. L./McGuire, M. T./Hill, J. O./Seagle, H. 1998: Persons successful at long-term weight loss and maintenance continue to consume a low-energy, low-fat diet, in: Journal of American Dietetic Association, Vol. 98, 1998, No. 4. pp. 408-413.
Thomas, J. G./Bond, D. S./Phelan, S./Hill, J. O./Wing, R. R. 2014: Weight-loss maintenance for 10 years in the National Weight Control Registry, in: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Vol. 46, 2014, No. 1, pp. 17-23.