Maintaining Weight Loss: The Hard Part

The weight-loss industry tends to focus on strategies needed to shed pounds—but these may be different from what you need to maintain your new, lower weight.

For instance, as a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found, people who succeeded at losing weight and keeping it off shared some common practices: They ate lots of fruits and vegetables, controlled their portions, planned what they would be buying before shopping, and read nutrition labels. But the successful weight maintainers had other tactics in their arsenal too: They were more likely to follow a consistent exercise routine, eat higher amounts of lean protein, reward themselves for sticking to their diet or exercise plan, and remind themselves why they need to control their weight.

Meanwhile, the National Weight Control Registry has found that successful weight-loss maintainers tend to be conscious of calories, have a less-varied diet, weigh themselves regularly, keep food diaries, watch less TV, and exercise a lot, among other winning strategies.

How maintaining is different from losing

Weight control is a process in which you fine-tune what works for you as you go. You may find, for example, that limiting calories works initially, but that you feel better and can more easily keep your calories down by eating a higher proportion of protein. You may also need a variety of exercise before you find a routine that works best for you. And you may have high motivation to lose weight in the beginning, but then find that over time, as enthusiasm wanes, you need to remind yourself of your goals more often, and reward yourself more often for staying on course.

Bottom line: Don’t get discouraged. Most people fail several times before they “get it right.” It may take a few rounds before you succeed at keeping the weight off. The good news is that if you can keep the weight off for two years, chances are you’ll keep it off over the long term, according to the National Weight Control Registry. You may still have to work at it every day, but you gain more confidence in your ability, which goes a long way towards lasting success.

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