Weight maintenance doesn't have to be hard after achieving your goal. Our expert offers easy tips to keep your weight in check.
If you've recently reached your weight loss goal -- congratulations! You're now probably wondering about the best way to maintain your weight loss. You've heard time and time again that fad diets and quick fixes aren't the best way to lose weight since they only work so much and can send you into a yo-yo dieting spiral. They also don't teach you how to establish sustainable healthy habits. Assuming you've lost the weight in a slow, healthy manner by eating a balanced diet and exercising you're already in a good place.
We spoke with Andres Ayesta, registered dietitian and founder of Planos Nutrition to discuss weight loss maintenance. Additionally, we discussed the mistakes many people make when losing weight, how to avoid them and what you can do to keep the weight off once you lose it. Make sure to keep these tips handy if you're ready to embark on the maintainance part of your journey.
One important thing to keep in mind when embarking on a weight loss journey is why you want to lose weight in the first place. Ayesta says that many times people do it to feel better, gain more energy, be able to do more things and work out more easily.
"Measuring your energy levels, your sleep, your ability to play with your kids, to your performance in the gym, those are going to be really good markers of progress because when you start to add up a lot of those little small victories and wins, then you know you're on the right track," he said. Those are the things that are going to keep you going, not your focus on the number on the scale.
Setting unrealistic expectations during weight loss can have the opposite effect on your long-term success. One of the big mistakes people make is going on fad diets that are severely restrictive that cause them to lose weight quickly, but make it harder to sustain that weight after the fact.
"A more realistic and sustainable approach is by focusing on building strong habits such as improving your lifestyle, getting enough sleep, making sure that you're getting enough protein and staying hydrated," said Ayesta. Although the results may take longer to achieve, it'll be easier for you to maintain them.
Another thing to remember is that faster isn't better. "One of the biggest things that people struggle with is they want to eat more, but can't on fad diets, so it's preferable to lose weight by eating a little bit more rather than being so restrictive and losing it way too quickly," Ayesta said. Usually when it comes to weight loss it's recommended that you lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.
If a person is rapidly losing weight and they don't have a ton of spare weight to begin with, they're not only losing weight, but also muscle. "Usually when this happens a lot of times your metabolism gets affected and this is something known as adaptive thermogenesis," he explained. "Your body is getting used to living off of various little amount of calories, and when you get off of that fad diet and you add all your usual habits back into your life again, usually your body rebounds and tries to set itself to a point where it feels comfortable again." This is how yo-yo dieting begins as this can lead you to enter a continuous cycle of losing and regaining weight.
It's also vital to have a strong support system that can hold you accountable. Ayesta suggests surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family who are on board with your goals, because unsupportive individuals can make it difficult to stay on your desired path. Having a mentor who's been through a similar journey can also be helpful because they can offer insight and tips to help you reach your goals.
Finally, an expert, such as a registered dietitian, is helpful to have by your side. "Having somebody that has the academic background or the knowledge to be able to point you in the right direction is key, because they have seen people go through this route many different times and they know exactly what to do and what adjustments to make, particularly when you're having rough weeks," advised Ayesta. Having this type of support can also be helpful during your maintenance phase.
Assuming you've lost weight in a slow and sustainable manner and you're at a healthy weight for your body, maintenance is a simple matter of keeping the good habits going. You don't have to count calories or aim for perfection every day. Instead, Ayesta says it's key to focus on continuing the lifestyle changes that helped you lose weight in the first place.
According to Ayesta, five healthy habits that can help you maintain your weight include:
Another thing to keep in mind is that weight naturally fluctuates, so it's helpful to view it as a range rather than a goal number. Ayesta points out that your weight will also be influenced by life stages. For example, around the holidays you may be more liberal with your nutrition choices, whereas there will be other periods when you are more mindful of consumption."Creating a range around a plus or minus 5% of your goal is going to be a good place to be -- whether it goes up or down," Ayesta advised.
Looking at the trends instead of a single digit on the scale is a more realistic approach to have when it comes to weight maintenance. "If you step on a scale on a specific day and you see a number that you don't really like, it's very important to understand trends and averages rather than just simply looking at one single digit," Ayesta explained.
If you do find yourself regaining all or most of the weight over time, that could be a sign that your weight loss methods were too drastic for your individual needs or there could be medical factors at play. In this scenario it's best to see a weight-inclusive doctor or dietitian to help you figure out what's going on.
The scale is only one way to measure weight loss and the maintenance phase. "Other markers of success that I like to pay attention to include some objective and some subjective measurements," said Ayesta. For example, in terms of weight loss, looking at body measurements around your waistline, leg or your hips is helpful. A more subjective approach could be observing how your clothes actually fit.
Another method to monitor your maintenance is by looking at and comparing photos. "We use a lot of photographs to compare changes over time, and that's a better way to be able to measure success because if somebody puts on a little bit of muscle mass and drops a little bit of fat, something known as body recomposition, what's gonna happen is your body is going to look a little bit different, but then the weight may not be changing too much," he explained.
Losing weight and keeping it off can be difficult, but if you prepare yourself ahead of time, you can set yourself up for success. As Ayesta pointed out, it's important to not put so much emphasis on a specific number on the scale as our bodies are meant to fluctuate. There are also other factors to take into account besides your weight as well. If you're feeling fitter, more energized and getting enough sleep, those are wins in themselves and shouldn't be discredited.