Congratulations! You've lost weight. It required an extensive amount of willpower, determination, and perseverance, but you did it! The next challenge is to now keep the weight off. This will be something that you will constantly have to work at. It's very common for people to gain back the weight they've lost.
Many people think this happens because people revert back to their old ways. This is sometimes true, but there's much more to it. After losing weight, your metabolism slows down. Eduardo Grunvald, MD, program director at UC San Diego's Weight Management Program said that the body starts burning calories slower to conserve energy stores. This information was discovered in a study of former Biggest Loser participants.
Published in the journal Obesity, the study found that 13 out of the 14 participants regained the weight they lost and noticed a huge reduction in some participants' metabolisms. Not only is your metabolism affected, but your hormones also change. This change in hormones signals your brain to consume more calories. Dr. Grunvald explained that one hormone that changes is leptin, which is responsible for suppressing your appetite. When you lose weight, your level of leptin also drops which means that your body isn't readily signaling when it's full.
Just because many people gain the weight back, that doesn't mean you're doomed. There is still hope. Dr. Grunvald said that transitioning from weight-loss mode to weight maintenance mode takes extra vigilance. "To maintain that weight loss, you have to maintain whatever calorie restriction you did to get there. So you have to be vigilant all the time."
For example, if you ate a 1,200 calorie diet to lose weight, you'll have to continue eating 1,200 calories per day to keep the weight off. If you want a more personalized weight maintenance plan, speak to your doctor and explain the diet you used to lose the weight and what your goals are for the future. Aside from sticking to a calorie limit, you will also need to exercise more. "You burn fewer calories for the same amount of work. To compensate for that, you need to actually increase your physical activity, just for the maintenance. So you may have to increase physical activity more than you used to, to lose the weight," Dr. Grunvald explained. Don't worry, you don't have to start running 5 miles every day (unless that's your norm). Simple activities such as walking an extra 30 minutes to an hour every day will suffice.
There is a database called the National Weight Control Registry, which contains information about people who have lost 30 or more pounds and kept it off for a least a year. Researchers accessed the database and discovered that people who were able to maintain their weight, exercised more in the maintenance phase than when they were trying to lose weight. Although weight maintenance heavily relies on a healthy lifestyle, don't underestimate the power of a supportive environment. Dr. Grunvald said that this may be the biggest factor of them all, one which can really make or break your weight maintenance efforts. Support systems can be from weight-loss programs, dietitians, health educators, or clinics.