Look at what you’ve accomplished: You’ve reached your weight-loss goal and you feel like you’re ready to take on the world. But now what?
Not to crash your party, but research has shown that only about 20 percent of overweight individuals are successful at long-term weight loss.
“Long term” is defined as losing at least 10 percent of initial body weight and maintaining that loss for at least 1 year.
Defense mechanisms like increased hunger, lower-energy metabolism, resorting to old habits, and day-to-day stresses seem to fight against you even more than when you were in weight-loss mode.
This is where 80 percent of those previously overweight individuals get stuck.
But luckily for you, we have 10 tips on how to ensure you beat the odds and keep that weight off without becoming a slave to the scale.
10 Tips to Keep the Weight Off
1. Eat more plants
The key here is what Dr. Barbara Rolls termed “volumetrics.” Foods with low-calorie density like fruits and veggies are naturally high in bulk, fiber, and water to help you feel full without using up much of your daily calorie target.
If you think about it, when was the last time you were able to eat more than two apples in a sitting or come close to eating a whole head of lettuce?
(Juicing doesn’t count — once you send those fruits and veggies through the juicer, all the beneficial fiber is removed.) The more of these foods you have in your meal plan, the less likely you’ll be to binge on calorie-dense treats.
2. Cook (more) at home
It’s time to take control of your kitchen, and perhaps even kick things up a notch. With the advent of that Internet thing, you have access to loads of healthful recipes.
So whether you consider yourself a foodie or not, seek out blogs that feature recipes that suit your taste.
When you cook at home, you control your portions, the quality of the ingredients, the cooking method, and the menu — all areas that require wise decisions when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.
3. Consume more protein
According to a 2014 meta-analysis in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, high-protein diets and meal replacements are effective strategies to help combat weight re-gain.
Sounds similar to the nutrition strategy you used to lose weight, right? That’s why the best “diets” are really lifestyle makeovers with no end date.
Start your morning off with a balanced breakfast or protein shake, and let those healthy decisions set the tone for the rest of the day.
4. Cut back on liquid calories
What I’m referring to here are liquid calories that are void of any nutrition, such as soda, alcohol, sugar-laden lattes, and sugar-laden “fruit-flavored” juices, all of which lack the fiber and protein that help you feel full.
This trick is one of the many used by successful weight-loss maintainers in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), an ongoing study of adults 18 years of age and older who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least 1 year.
5. Make your gut happy
The little bacteria that populate your intestinal tract can have a huge impact on whether or not lost pounds remain lost.
According to a study in mice in the journal Nature, overweight and obese individuals have a higher ratio of unhealthy to healthy bacteria in their guts, and that ratio can persist post-weight loss, presenting a hurdle for maintaining that loss.
To promote the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria, stock your kitchen and pantry with foods rich in probiotics (e.g., yogurt, kefir, fermented veggies like kimchi) and prebiotics (e.g., fiber-dense fruits and veggies, which feed the good bacteria).
6. Cheat… a little
A life without chocolate, alcohol, or French fries may not be a life worth living, and lucky for us, the body is pretty forgiving when it comes to the occasional treat.
You likely won’t do much damage if you indulge your cravings once or twice a week. So listen to your body, and know that if it’s screaming for Ben & Jerry’s, you’ve got a couple free passes.
7. Continue to monitor your weight
While studies show that a daily weigh-in can help you lose weight, you can relax a bit once you’ve reached your goal.
Once a week should do the trick. That will allow you to monitor your weight and make lifestyle adjustments as necessary — and if your weight starts trending upward, you can always resume daily weigh-ins to root out the problem.
8. Move more
Research shows that eating habits carry the brunt of the load when it comes to weight loss, but exercise takes over once you reach your goal.
9. Keep your diet dialed in
The downside to losing weight is that you have to continue eating less to maintain it because your new body doesn’t require as much energy to function.
But that doesn’t mean you have to keep counting calories. Once you get an idea of your new daily calorie target and go through a few rounds of meal prep to see how much food that encompasses, then you can guesstimate how much to eat.
This is where a weekly weigh-in comes in handy since it will alert you if your eyes are getting bigger than your stomach!
10. Stay the course
Maintaining your weight loss will become easier as you internalize these tips.
Indeed, a study in Obesity Research found that participants who had lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for 2 years or longer used fewer weight-management techniques as time passed.
The reason? The techniques became part of their lifestyle.
Instead of dreading your workouts, you might find yourself jumping out of bed eager for a dance or MMA-inspired workout, or relishing time in the kitchen prepping perfectly balanced meals for the week ahead.
Whatever seems like a struggle today will become effortless down the road.
The Bottom Line
Losing weight can be difficult, but many people find weight-loss maintenance to be even more challenging.
Armed with these tips, however, it’s also totally doable, so have faith. Hey, if you lost the weight in the first place, you’ve already proven you’ve got what it takes to succeed!