By Gina DeMillo Wagner, Experience Life
Congratulations! You did it! You worked hard, ate well and shed some serious pounds. Anyone who’s traveled down the weight-loss path knows that’s no easy feat. They also know it’s only half the battle. Now the goal is to keep those pounds off for good.
Research suggests that without a thoughtful maintenance plan, the vast majority of “big losers” find themselves back where they started in relatively short order. They revert to old habits, get derailed by stress or life changes, or lose weight too rapidly, disrupting their metabolism and making their losses nearly impossible to maintain. A 2010 Penn State College of Medicine study, for example, found that nearly 83 percent of people regain most, if not all, of it within a year. Other studies have shown that as many as 95 percent of people who lost 10 percent or more of their body weight regain a significant amount of weight in five years.
There are plenty of success stories, however. Sue Thompson, MS, a clinical psychologist and motivational speaker in Wilmington, Del., lost 85 pounds and has kept almost all of it off since 2007. “It took me two years to lose the weight,” she recalls, “then I gained 20 back and had to work like crazy to lose 10 of that.”
It helps to remember that hitting your goal weight isn’t the finish line, Thompson explains. You don’t stop the healthy habits once you see that magic number on the scale. That would be like someone quitting smoking, then celebrating by buying a pack of cigarettes. “To succeed, you gather your strategies and make them so much a part of your life that eventually you don’t even think about them,” she says.
You’re ahead of the game if you lost weight slowly and in a healthy manner, explains Julie Starkel, MS, MBA, RD, a functional-medicine nutritionist and registered dietitian at Green Lake Nutrition in Seattle.
Ideally, you should lose no more than 5 percent of your body weight in three months, Starkel says. Why? Your body has a “set point,” the weight at which all your organs and body systems (including your metabolism) function at their best.
The set point serves an evolutionary purpose: It’s the body’s way of monitoring your fat stores for survival. Trouble is, the set point doesn’t distinguish between dieting and starvation. Don’t worry: It will adjust slowly as you lose weight. “But if you lose weight too rapidly, your set point can’t keep up,” she says, “so you’ll have to work harder to maintain the weight loss while your body adjusts.”
Sometimes it can take a full year for your body’s set point to catch up to your weight loss, Starkel adds. “So if you dropped weight fast, you’ll have to be much more diligent than someone who lost weight slowly.”
Either way, “you can up your odds of long-term success by taking care of yourself and paying attention to a few key factors,” explains Jean Fain, LICSW, MSW, author of The Self-Compassion Diet (Sounds True, 2010). Here are five ways to make your weight-loss success a lasting one.
The first step: self-compassion
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.