Weight Loss Maintenance- Keeping the Weight Off!
Congratulations! You’ve lost the weight! You’ve done the hard part. You’ve pushed yourself through a tough period of calorie-controlled eating and seen the gates of heaven more than you would like to during a gruelling HIIT session, spin class, or BodyPump class. You’re posing in front of the mirror in awe of the new and improved YOU. You’ve done it! You’ve lost the weight.
At times, most of us see weight loss as a beginning and end. I.e., my current weight is 90kgs, I want to lose 10kgs, and therefore my goal is 80kgs. And as if by some flick of a switch, as soon as you reach your goal, you feel like you’ve finished the race, and with your confidence and self-esteem at an all-time high, you slowly (an unconsciously) start creeping back into old habits and somehow end up back at the start. Welcome to the YO-YO diet, where more than 50% of those who lose weight end up regaining and dieting again ( 1).
The problem is too often do we romanticize the end of the race when it comes to losing weight. Sometimes too much of our efforts are pushed into reaching the end goal, the 80kgs, that we neglect to plan for what happens after. And as well all know, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Spoiler alert, when you lose weight, it doesn't automatically stay off forever. The sooner you find out, the better.
I consider myself an expert at losing weight, and even more of an expert at putting it back on (I am not proud of the latter). When I won my first weight loss competition in 2019, my pictures were all over social media and even made the local newspapers. I had lost 25kgs in 8 weeks! I remember romanticizing how amazing I was going to look at the end of the 8-week challenge in my new and improved body. I saw the end of the 8 weeks as my end date, somehow believing that as soon as I finished the challenge that my final weight would be my permanent weight. But, failing to plan for after the weight loss programme led to the weight finding its way back on me. I’ve completed two, possibly three, weight loss programmes since and am only just finding out how to keep the weight off. Here are 8 tips for keeping the weight off from someone who has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and wrote the blog… literally.
8 Tips For Keeping The Weight Off After Losing It
1. Stick to your changes
If you want to maintain your new, healthier weight, you need to stick to the changes you've already made.
If you return to your old habits, chances are your weight will creep back up again. Try to make the changes part of your lifestyle.
2. Plan for the maintenance phase
Maintenance doesn’t just happen- It needs to be planned for with the same intensity as the weight loss programme, and it needs to be adhered to with the same vigour.
Anticipate the end of your weight loss programme, and see the maintenance phase as an extension.
3. Understand Your Calorie Intake
A new weight means a different daily calorie intake. Therefore it is important to know what this new number is. As a guide, the average man needs about 2,500 calories and the average woman needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain their weight. For a more specific calorie amount, you can find several online websites that can calculate this for you, such as
4. Meal Prep is KEY
Meal prep is an important tool for having control of what you are consuming. It takes the guesswork and potentially bad decisions out of food. When you're hungry during the day, you may be tempted to order or eat the first thing that crosses your plate. Having a prepped meal cuts back on food anxiety and insecurity, and ensures proper food decisions.
Meal prep also helps fight the temptation to eat bad. Your mind doesn’t have time to wonder about ‘what should I eat?’. It is all prepared for you, it's accessible, and it's within reach! It is also a great way to combat emotional eating. Meal prep removes the element of impulse purchasing, so when you're having a particularly stressful day at home or work, you won't be tempted to grab a burger with fries if you already have your meal ready to eat. Research supports the concept that people have overall healthier meals when having their meals prepared in advance ( 4).
Reaching your desired weight is not necessarily the time to celebrate by introducing old bad habits, and eating foods you stopped eating- this is a sure-fire way into creeping back into old eating and exercising habits. Check out our delicious range of healthy meals and meal prep plans at Prep Kitchen.
5. Not a time to start rewarding your efforts with food
Rewards matter because it’s a way of celebrating your accomplishments, and reminding yourself that you are capable of reaching your goals. These celebrations can help keep you motivated on the days when your new lifestyle plans seem challenging.
I’ve heard many people, including myself, speak of rewarding the end of their weight loss journey with a weekend binge of food and alcohol. Unfortunately, this can be a slippery slope and you might find yourself creeping back into old habits that you worked so hard to change and undo all your hard weight loss work. So it's best to choose non-food rewards to keep your program and progress on track. Choose rewards that celebrate your health and promotes your well-being, such as a massage, new workout clothes or shoes, a new kitchen appliance, a personal training session.
6. Watch your weight
Try and weigh yourself weekly so you can keep a close eye on any changes to your weight with the new changes to your diet. You can’t control what you can’t measure, so it is important during the maintenance phase to keep track of the new changes and make changes accordingly. I.e., if you’re still losing weight, perhaps your calories are too low so make changes to your meal/s.
7. Keep tracking your food
This is not the time to go AWOL with your diet! Those who are successful in keeping the weight off after a diet know how important it is to document what and how much they eat. The simple act of writing it down, either in a journal or via an app, is a powerful tool that can help keep you in control. I use the app myfitnesspal to track my calories- free to download and has been an important tool with maintaining my weight.
8. Understand your triggers and habits
I know when I'm creeping back into bad habits with my eating. I start to ‘forget’ to upload what I’ve eaten into the myfitnesspal app, or I start leaving out certain foods or meals when entering them into the app. I also start doing little things like not weighing myself anymore and avoiding mirrors and reflections. These are my behaviours that typically signify that I’ve fallen off the wagon, and I’ve come to understand that these are sure signs that I am probably on my way to putting the weight back on ( 5).
You understand You better than anyone else, and we are usually aware of this mental shift and behavioural change. When you start recognizing these habits start happening, you need to have a plan on what to do to overcome this.
For myself, I have an honest conversation with myself. I acknowledge what is happening, and why it is happening. I remember my ‘why?’ and I step back on the scales and weigh myself.
To Sum Up:
The end of a weight loss programme, weight loss challenge, or personal weight loss journey shouldn't leave in you an area of the unknown. What do you do once you've lost the weight? You keep it off! And how? With good planning, meal prep continuation, and building on the new habits you learnt in the process. A weight-loss journey and maintenance phase is the best way of learning about your body, and celebrating what you can, and have, achieved.