Congratulations, you’ve reached your weight loss goal! Now, all you have to do is make sure you’re one of the 5-10% of people who lose weight and manage to maintain it over time.
The next step you will be asking yourself is how much more can you eat? How much should you cut back on exercise, if you have made the lifestyle change that will allow you to lose weight permanently and most importantly, what does it really take to maintain your weight loss? The right answer to these questions is not easy at all.
The challenges of weight management involve both biological and psychological factors.
For some of you who have achieved your weight loss goals, you will start regaining weight simply because you will start eating a little bit more and exercising a little less, often without even noticing it.
Sometimes your body will likely try to put on some of the weight you have lost. It accomplishes this with a complex set of metabolic adjustments that will cause you to gradually gain weight even though you are maintaining your diet and you have maintained a balance between calories eaten and calories expended.
If you have always gained weight easily, have a history of obesity and had to struggle with weight loss, food cravings and increased appetite, you should expect that keeping the weight off is going to require some special attention and effort on your part.
Tips to help maintain your healthy weight
- Know your caloric target for weight maintenance: The first step to maintaining your weight is to visit a dietician in order to calculate how many calories you can theoretically eat every day to maintain your present weight. Unfortunately you cannot start eating at this maintenance level right away especially if you have been eating less than the target calories set when losing weight. The dietician will then explain to you how to increase your daily calorie intake by 150-200 calories (from healthy, low-fat food sources, of course) for one week, and watch the effect that it has on your weight. If you continue to lose weight or your weight holds steady, she will advise the same thing again for another week, and this will continue until you reach your estimated maintenance target. It is recommended to continue weighing yourself frequently in order to monitor your weight maintenance plan.
- Exercise, Exercise, Exercise: The most important factor in maintaining weight loss is exercise. Most likely, you will need to increase the intensity and/or duration of your exercise and other daily activities you did during the weight loss phase. For most people who are successful at weight maintenance, burning an additional 150-200 calories per day seems to do the trick, though you may need to experiment a little bit to find out what works best for you. But make sure you do not reduce your calorie intake below the maintenance level in order to get out of doing more exercise.
Always remember that everything you’ve heard about the negative effects of stress, inadequate sleep and poor nutrition on weight loss will be potentially more significant during weight maintenance.
Other tips that can help are…
- Make healthy food choices a habit. This leads to a healthy lifestyle. Make a commitment to eat well and get the support from family and friends.
- Remember to be realistic about your goals. Do not try to make many changes at once, instead set smaller, more realistic goals for yourself and add a new challenge each week.
- Forgive yourself. If you occasionally make mistakes, don’t give up, but start over the next day.