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How to keep weight off once you lose it

A dietitian's tips to help you navigate what's next once you hit your weight loss goals.

Lost weight? Here's what's next. 
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Losing weight is not easy. If you reached your weight loss goal, that means you've put in the time, work, dedication and healthy habits needed to get there. Congrats! Now what? 

When you're working toward a weight loss goal, it's so easy to get caught up in the pursuit of the goal that you don't even stop to think about what comes after you reach it. First, celebrate yourself for getting healthier and reaching your goals. Then consider some of the tips below from Jaclyn London, a registered dietician and head of nutrition and wellness at WW on what to do once you lose weight and how to maintain your goal weight. 

How weight loss maintenance works 

Maintaining your weight loss is not that different than losing the weight in the first place, but the good news is that it won't feel as hard because you've already established your healthy habits and know what works for you.

If you've managed to reach your weight loss goals you most likely are familiar with macros and calories -- both concepts that are part of maintaining your weight as well. "From a biochemical standpoint, weight maintenance over time is about energy balance-- calories in, calories out. Burn more than you eat and you'll lose; eat more than you burn and you'll gain," says London. 

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While counting calories or tracking macros can be helpful, London also says that weight loss maintenance is about so much more than counting numbers.

"Assuming that you've lost weight steadily and safely (and are currently at a weight that you and your physician agree is a healthy one for you), weight maintenance is really about your lifestyle and incorporating your personal health-promoting choices most of the time," says London.

Ultimately, maintaining your weight is not about maintaining a perfect diet or exercise routine, according to London. "Multiple factors are at play when it comes to our personal health and well-being, many of which are not within our control, but the ones that can change frequently-- from what you're eating most of the time [and] at most meals to how active you are on a weekly basis, to how much sleep you get over time," says London. 

Because of these changes, London emphasizes that first, the number on the scale is not the end-all-be-all, and if your weight does change, don't beat yourself up -- it's normal. "Your weight is just one number, one piece of data in the story that is 'your personal state of health' at any given moment in time, and I'd argue that most of the time it may not capture the whole story!" says London. 

Again, weight fluctuations are normal as long as you're maintaining your healthier habits that you know help you feel your best. "The habits you built in the process of making small, sustainable changes to your lifestyle should provide the building blocks of your more holistic health story-- not the number on the scale," says London. 

How to keep the weight off

If you're still unsure of what's next when it comes to maintaining your weight loss goals, London suggests these tips as you navigate this next stage in your health journey.

Aim for consistency vs. perfection 

"I'd argue that consistency is key to just about everything we do, but for the purpose of maintaining weight loss -- stay consistent with your (newly-formed) routines, such as eating consistently. I typically recommend having something every three to four hours," says London. 

She also suggests sticking with your exercise routine activity (i.e. if you're in the habit of spinning every Wednesday morning at 7 a.m., why stop now?), keeping up with your meal-prep routine, and anything else you've picked up in your weight loss journey that's been helpful. 

Use your schedule to inform your strategy

"Start by assessing your schedule and with the understanding of where you'll be daily or weekly to make decisions that meet your personal goals and work for your lifestyle -- not in spite of it," says London. 

Right now pretty much everyone is working, working out and basically doing everything at home, so try to work with what healthy activities (such as meal prepping and exercising) can realistically happen with your current circumstances and schedule.

Focus on what you (truly) enjoy 

Along your weight loss journey you've probably tried a lot of foods, exercises and other habits that worked for you (and others that did not). London emphasizes focusing on what you know works best for you, and don't sweat it if something that works for others is not a fit for you. 

"So much of the conversation as it relates to weight loss or management is focused on unnecessary prescriptions that make it impossible to actually apply to your personal everyday lifestyle," says London. 

When in doubt, be kind to yourself 

"Remember that your weight and well-being are affected by what you do consistently, not perfectly, which means that there will be days when you ate something you didn't really intend to eat, or skip a workout on a day you wanted to get moving... and that's OK! So long as you're not beating yourself up, you're already on track to better health and weight management for the long haul," says London. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.