Losing weight isn’t necessarily the hard part — it’s keeping it off that proves the biggest challenge for most people.
With research revealing weight loss generally peaks six months after commencing a new program, and that half of all dieters will regain their lost weight after five years, it’s never been clearer that weight maintenance is the biggest obesity challenge.
It might be sobering news for anyone who has recently begun intermittent fasting, calorie-counting or meal replacements, but accredited practising dietitian Melanie McGrice tells 9Honey Coach that there are ways of bucking the re-gain trend. Here’s how.
1. Weigh yourself weekly
The US National Weight Control Registry is a record of more than 10,000 people who have lost more than 13kg and kept it off for at least 12 months, and one thing in common with most of the participants is regular weighing.
Seventy-five percent of the participants weigh themselves at least weekly, which McGrice says can be a simple way of keeping tabs on any fluctuations.
“The registry found that people who weigh themselves at least once per week are more likely to avoid weight regain,” she explains.
“Some of the other commonalities include eating breakfast every day, having a low-fat diet and doing a significant amount of physical activity — about 60 minutes of moderate intensity a day for seven days a week.”
2. Reverse re-gain fast
If you notice the scales are starting to tip in the wrong direction, McGrice says that the sooner you can get back into healthy habits, the better.
“The research shows that once people give up and put 20kg back on, they’re much less likely to be able to get back under their goal than someone who puts on 3kg then jumps on it straight away and gets their weight back down to their goal again,” she says.
“Men in particular tend to do well with what we call on-demand meal replacements. There’s a couple of studies that show that every time they got over their chosen weight, they would do meal replacements for a week or two [to get back to their goal weight], which worked better than having regular scheduled meal replacement periods.”
3. Strategise for special occasions
If your plan is to stay slim for the long-term, then McGrice says you need a plan for all of those occasions that come up every year — from birthdays to social dinners to Christmas.
It might mean that you make a pact with yourself to always have half a plate of vegetables wherever you are, or that you’ll treat yourself to some birthday cake at the party but will skip the hors d’oeuvres.
“Consider how often you are willing to allow yourself to have treats,” McGrice suggests.
4. Plan for the six-month slide
Knowing that your weight loss is likely to peak at six months, McGrice suggests putting in place a plan to help you beyond that point.
“Have some pre-scheduled consultations with your dietitian to check in and keep accountable,” she says.
“Different things work for different people. For some people, it might be intermittent fasting, for others it might be some appetite-suppressant medication. It’s also important to have plans in place for physical activity.”
Whenever anyone embarks on a weight-loss plan, McGrice says it’s worth thinking long-term.
“Knowledge is power — it’s important for people to know the truth [about weight re-gain risk],” she says.
“We need to be treating obesity as a medical condition and manage it lifelong. You can’t just go on a diet for a few weeks or months and then not worry about it anymore — we need to be managing it long-term.”
5. Give your kids a good grounding
It’s now established that overweight and obesity are genetic conditions, and McGrice says that what couples eat prior to conception and what a mother eats during pregnancy and breastfeeding can make a significant difference to how their child will fare weight-wise throughout their life.
“I’m so passionate about prevention,” she says.
“We know that even if mum and dad are overweight, if they can eat the right foods in the lead-up to conception and during pregnancy, then you can actually help to program your baby’s genes so that they don’t have to go through these same struggles that you’re going through.”