I see it all the time - individuals who experience wonderfully successful weight loss transformations who, in turn, regain some (or even all) of their lost weight back.
It’s a topic every weight loss coach and his/her client should have, yet most individuals I’ve connected with who’ve lost weight in the past confess they never had a plan for what to do after they reached their goal.
With this in mind, let me share a cardinal truth: behind every great weight loss plan is an even better weight maintenance plan.
Why is weight regain so common? Check out these eight reasons I see most often, along with tips for sustaining your success.
Your Plan Wasn’t a Long-Term One.
Drastically cutting calories, eating little to no food, spending hours a day on a treadmill – they’re efforts that can be to some extent effective at yielding weight loss, yet they are extremely difficult (and unhealthy) to maintain as long-term behaviors or habits.
Although these types of plans can be appealing, most often they provide very short-term success and rapid weight regain. Even worse, these efforts can also lead to detrimental impacts on both your lean tissue (bye bye muscle!) and metabolism, causing you to gain more body fat than you had in the first place!
To avoid this scenario, make a point from the start of weight loss to focus on habits that make your body healthy and that support your metabolism. If you find yourself already at this rebound stage, work with a coach to determine what habits have the best return for rebuilding muscle tissue, supporting your health and avoiding future weight regain.
You Need a New Goal.
You’ve lost the weight - now what? You’re done?
I tell my clients all the time that one of the best ways to avoid weight regain is to consider new milestones and finish lines to pursue post-loss that help reinvent yourself and provide focus on bettering your wellness and fitness level.
One of my favorite things to read in any success story is how our members start with Life Time to lose weight but throughout their journey find new passions (such as Run or Cycle Club, weight training, swimming, Pilates) that encourage them to embrace their fitness as a fun, long-term endeavor.
Finding these passions not only helps make maintenance mode more enjoyable but also serves as a perfect playground within which to set new goals to keep the weight off for good. Instead of fixating on losing weight, you go after improving your 5K time or increasing your max load on your next deadlift.
Your Metabolism Shifted.
Our metabolisms can shift (or become less optimal at maintaining our current weight) for a slew of different reasons.
As I like to describe it, there are several areas that make up metabolism, including sex hormone balance, thyroid function, cellular health, and stress hormone levels, which at any point (as a result of environmental toxins, behaviors, aging, etc.) can cause weight gain and other symptoms that impact our health and appearance.
Knowing this, I am super passionate about my clients doing some sort of comprehensive blood test each and every year as part of their wellness and maintenance program. This way, if we catch barriers in their metabolism, we can plan for it with specific diet, supplement and lifestyle modifications.
It’s also important to note that what you did to lose weight initially may not work again. If you remember that your metabolism is dynamic and that many factors will influence it over time, you’ll be more willing to check it on a regular basis to help determine how and when to make periodic adjustments.
You’ve Started a New Chapter.
Career change, job loss, kids going off to college – these are all major life changes that happen for my clients who experience weight regain.
Many of these major life shifts (whether negative or positive) can cause an increase in anxiety and stress that often lead to unhealthy behaviors like emotional eating (or drinking), which can throw us right back into a weight gaining state.
In these times, stress management is key. I like to tell my clients that life is going to happen, and no diet or exercise routine can overrule the impact that stress can have on your body. As a result, it will always be in their best interest to learn stress management strategies now, so when life hits we have a clear plan for overcoming and working through it.
Some of my favorite stress management tactics include daily meditation, a regular exercise routine, dry sauna time and keeping a gratitude journal.
You Got Too Comfortable.
This tends to happen to my clients who are years past their original weight loss success.
For however long, they remain accountable to a whole foods diet (with a little wiggle room), but for some reason overreach a few times with no repercussions and eventually indulge more regularly, the result being a downward spiral and added pounds.
This often happens after a cheat meal or cheat day when your mind can start thinking, “Well, that wasn’t too bad. Let’s do it again.” Then all of a sudden the gluten you’ve avoided for years is at every meal, and you’re eating processed foods like they’re going out of style.
Habit is everything, and I like to coach my clients by saying that if they can consistently follow an 80/20 rule (80% on plan with healthy and whole foods, 20% wiggle room for less healthy), their long term success with maintenance will be much easier. Once they steer down a path that’s more 70/30, 60/40 or 50/50, however, sometimes there’s no stopping that weight regain.
Your Friends and Family Won You Over.
Research has shown time and again that we often behave and look similar to people who are in our social group.
If you are constantly around individuals who don’t practice healthy behaviors, the chances of you doing the same are extremely high. I’ve had clients in the past who have cut ties with certain people during their weight loss journeys to help stay on course and not be exposed to bad influences.
Once they reach their goal and feel more confident about what they’re doing, however, they tend to let these individuals back in and start mirroring those less-than-healthy habits once again.
Instead, make a point to form new relationships with others who are interested in being healthy – whether it’s individuals at your gym or even work place who you know will be a positive influence over you and who you can meet with on a regular basis. It might be going to dinner once a month because you know they’ll order a healthy option with you or someone to do a weekly “workout date” with. The more often you’re around these types of people, the more likely you’ll be able to stay on your plan and embrace it for the long term.
Your “Why” is No Longer Relevant.
“Motivation will get you started. Habit will keep you going.” It's one of my all-time favorite mantras for someone just getting started on a weight loss journey.
For many, that motivation most often comes from some sort of timely event – whether it be an upcoming family or class reunion or an expensive vacation requiring swimsuit attire. That original motivation can be perfect to ignite the journey; however, for many people when that event is over, the motivation to eat right and exercise goes right out the window.
Instead, use motivation to get you started, but invest more time and focus becoming a healthier version of you for the long haul. You’ll be much more likely to keep the weight off for good if you’re always practicing healthy behaviors because you love your body and want to live a long and vital life.
You Lost Your Accountability.
Whether it was a workout partner or an actual weight loss or nutrition coach, most of us find the best weight loss success when we have some sort of accountability for our new and healthy behaviors.
With most of my clients, once they achieved their weight loss goal, we’d create an ongoing coaching plan for one visit each month or every other month. That simple appointment (over the phone or in person) offered the opportunity to discuss new goals, to share strategies or to simply check in about how they were doing.
I always found these clients were the most successful long term because having that scheduled appointment was accountability enough to keep them on their plan but also to provide an ongoing sense of support, since I was going to continue to be there if they needed me or if life presented changes or obstacles.
If you don’t have a coach and have hit your weight loss goal, try scheduling a monthly check in with a trusted friend or family member during which you can have some designated time to talk through your successes (or opportunities) to stay solid on your healthy track.
Thanks for reading. Would you like support for weight maintenance? Talk with one of our registered dietitians or weight loss coaches today!
In health, Anika Christ – Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.