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How Can You Sustain Weight Loss?
Updated on July 3, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
How Can You Sustain Weight Loss?

Weight loss is a common goal in health improvement. It is associated with several health benefits, such as improved blood sugar levels, healthier blood pressure, reduced bone and joint stress, and more.1,2

However, weight loss can be challenging, and sustaining weight loss can be even more difficult.

In order to maintain weight loss, one should continue the consumption of low-calorie, high-dense food and burn 1500-2,000 calories a week

-Dr. Rizza Mira, our in-house medical expert

The good news is that sustaining weight loss is not impossible. The key to sustaining weight loss is creating sustainable, long-term lifestyle habits

How Does Weight Maintenance Work?

Weight can be affected by several factors, such as:3

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Sex 
  • Lifestyle

These factors affect how easy it is to maintain a healthy weight. 

Weight loss can be most successfully and sustainably achieved with two strategies: a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Reducing your caloric intake is at the heart of these two strategies. This involves practicing regular exercise, reducing portions, and focusing on more nutrient-dense food you eat to lessen the daily calorie intake.

Combined, healthy eating and regular physical activity creates a calorie deficit that leads to weight loss. They are the best ways to not only create a calorie deficit but holistic well-being as well.

However, the only way to maintain your weight loss is through regular physical activity.4

The American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on most days of the week to help attain good heart health.

-Dr. Rizza Mira
How Can You Sustain Weight Loss? 3

Why Maintaining Weight Is Challenging

Losing weight and keeping the weight off are both different endeavors. Maintaining weight requires lifetime changes in your eating habits and physical activity.5

For many people, maintaining weight after losing weight is challenging. This is because after losing weight, your body’s metabolism slows down. This leads to an increased appetite due to the body’s urge to return to its former levels of fat stores.

As a result, many people find the urge to eat more and risk putting back the weight they lost. 

“This is especially more challenging in those who tend to crash their diet,” says Dr. Mira.

Therefore, keeping the weight off is a matter of actively changing the biological urges that come with initial weight loss. 

The Importance of Long-Term Weight Maintenance

Long-term weight maintenance is not easy, but it is crucial for achieving optimal health for several reasons.

One reason why long-term weight maintenance is important is it prevents illnesses associated with obesity. These can include:3,6 

  • Heart diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

Obesity is a complex medical condition. Not only does it have cosmetic symptoms, but it can stimulate chemical changes that increase your risk for various diseases.7

On the other hand, being underweight is also unhealthy. When you are underweight, you are likely not eating enough to receive adequate nutrition in your diet.8 

As a result, being underweight increases your risk of osteoporosis, malnutrition, and anemia. You might also experience difficulty recovering from illnesses or infections.

Long-term weight management is about sustaining your quality of life by preventing weight-related diseases. By staying in a healthy weight range, you can maintain weight loss and achieve a healthier and longer life.

How to Maintain Weight After Weight Loss

Maintaining weight after weight loss means being mindful of your eating habits and your physical activity. However, research found that regular exercise is the best way to maintain weight loss.1,4 

How Often Should You Exercise?

To maintain your weight, aim for 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorously intense aerobic activity every week.4

Moderate-intensity workouts include activities such as:

  • Brisk walking
  • Casual biking
  • Casual dancing 
  • Water aerobics
  • Gardening

Meanwhile, vigorous exercises can include:

  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Jumping rope
  • Hiking uphill 
  • Aerobic dancing

The Role of a Balanced Diet

Eating habits play an important role in maintaining weight after weight loss.9,10

A balanced diet is ideal for maintaining weight. It involves intaking essential nutrients from healthy foods and ensuring you receive the necessary amount of calories. 

Calories are energy content from food. An average adult person requires 2,000 calories a day to maintain their body weight. 

However, this amount can depend on your sex, age, and physical activity. Be sure to consult with a dietitian about your required calorie intake.

Balanced eating is more than maintaining weight. It helps you meet essential nutrients your body requires for growth and repair.

Moreover, it provides you with enough energy for the day and helps prevent diet-related diseases like some cancers and vitamin deficiencies.

You can build a balanced diet by following this simple pattern for a healthy plate:11 

  • Vegetables and fruits should comprise half of your plate
  • Whole grains should be ¼ of your plate
  • Protein should be ¼ of your plate 
How Can You Sustain Weight Loss? 4

Importance of Protein in Weight Maintenance

Protein is highly essential in weight maintenance. High protein intake leads to a faster metabolism, decreased appetite, greater weight loss, and reduced conditions such as high blood pressure.12 

Many foods provide high-quality protein, such as:13 

  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Pork
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables

The amount of protein you need per day depends on how physically active you are. 

Generally, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight. 

Note that this is a minimum amount to take each day and not necessarily specific.

It’s important to choose quality protein sources. Aim for protein sources that are low in saturated fat.

For example, if you choose to eat poultry, pork, or beef, aim for lean meat and skinless poultry.14 Additionally, make sure to limit your consumption of red meat and other processed meat like bacon and sausages.

“Proteins are good adjuncts to weight loss. They help regulate hormones, make you feel full for longer periods, and help reduce appetite,” says Dr. Mira.

How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?

Weighing yourself once a week can help you stay on track with weight loss maintenance.15 You will get a more accurate result if you weigh yourself first thing in the morning before food and water affect your weight.16

However, it’s important to note that weight is only one aspect of your overall health. If you find yourself weighing yourself too often or if you have a history of eating disorders, consult a mental health professional.

“Weighing yourself constantly may be detrimental. You may feel sad if the scale stays the same during the early stages of losing weight,” explains Dr. MIra.

Managing Carb Intake for Weight Stability

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that most often occurs naturally in plant-based food. They come in three forms: sugar, starch, and fiber.

  • Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate and occurs as fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), and lactose (milk sugar).
  • Starch is found in vegetables, grains, beans, and peas.
  • Fiber occurs in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and peas.

Eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is key to a healthier weight. They contain bulk and fiber content that helps you feel fuller with fewer calories.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends your total daily calories consist of 45% to 65% of carbohydrates.17

How Does Lifestyle Affect Weight Maintenance?

Lifestyle choices are chief contributors to weight maintenance. Eating habits, exercise practices, managing stress, and more can influence whether you can sustain your weight or not. 

“Stress can make you counterproductive. It increases your cravings, and you may turn to sweets due to its sudden jolt of hormones,” explains Dr. Mira.

Staying Consistent with Your Healthy Habits

Staying consistent with your healthy habits is crucial to sustainably maintaining a healthy weight.15 Here are some tips to stay consistent:

  • Create realistic goals. Manage your goals so that they are smaller and more attainable. Starting with small steps helps motivate you in your weight maintenance journey.
  • Establish a routine. Having an established routine incorporates healthy habits for weight maintenance. Consider creating a structured plan that encourages you to stick to healthy habits and make them a non-negotiable lifestyle choice.
  • Track your progress. Having tangible ways to track your progress gives you a better understanding of how to achieve a healthier weight. Consider keeping a journal, using a mobile app, or maximizing your calendar.

Adapting to Setbacks and Challenges

Setbacks and challenges are inevitable in successful weight maintenance. 

When you encounter a setback, make sure to keep a positive attitude. These setbacks are opportunities to learn and not failures. 

Focus on the progress and celebrate the small wins. Understand that weight maintenance is not a linear process. It’s okay to experience these challenges.

Try to identify factors (like lack of time, feeling overwhelmed, etc.) that lead to the setback.18 Identifying these factors can help you recalibrate and modify your weight maintenance approach.

Lastly, consider seeking support from a friend or family member. By gaining guidance and encouragement from your support system, you’ll feel more confident in achieving your weight maintenance goals.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle Throughout the Week

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout the week involves planning and commitment. Here are some strategies you can try:

  • Meal planning. Meal planning enforces healthy eating habits by ensuring you have readily available meals.
  • Regular exercise. Prioritize exercise by finding ways to incorporate activity into your routine. This can involve simple activities like taking the stairs instead of the escalator or walking during lunch breaks.
  • Sleep and stress management. Sleep and weight maintenance are closely related. Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

The Impact of Hydration on Weight Maintenance

Staying hydrated helps regulate our appetite and prevent overeating.19 It also boosts metabolism and aids in weight maintenance.

Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. If you live in a hot climate or are exercising, drink more than this.

You can also drink herbal tea, unsweetened coffee, or coconut water. Make sure to limit sugary drinks such as soda or sports drinks because these can cause weight gain.

The Connection Between Mental Health and Weight Maintenance

Mental health and weight maintenance have a strong relationship with each other. Mental health conditions significantly impact your ability and willingness to maintain and regulate a healthy weight.

Managing Stress and Emotional Eating

Stress can contribute to several coping mechanisms. One example of this is emotional eating.20

Emotional eating is the unhealthy habit of overeating unhealthy food to deal with stress. This leads to weight gain and difficulties in weight loss. 

It’s important to recognize cues that trigger emotional eating. When you feel stressed, consider adopting healthier coping mechanisms such as: 

  • Journaling
  • Turning to a hobby
  • Reaching out to a friend

If emotional eating is too challenging to let go of, consider swapping unhealthy foods with healthier alternatives.21 However, be mindful of eating over your recommended daily calorie intake to prevent regaining lost weight.

The Importance of a Support Network

Support networks are essential to good mental health and weight maintenance.15

With a support network, you’ll have guidance and encouragement when dealing with challenges that affect your mental health and weight maintenance goals.

Moreover, they can provide a safe space where you can receive practical support for emotional and physical concerns. For example, you can try: 

  • Meal planning with a family member
  • Starting a new diet with a friend
  • Going to the gym or taking a class with your significant other

The key is to surround yourself with friends and family who can provide encouragement, accountability, and emotional support. 

Building a Positive Relationship with Food and Exercise

Achieving your weight maintenance goals may seem out of reach sometimes. Because of this, it’s important to establish a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

It’s crucial to view food not as a source of guilt but as a source of nourishment. Consider adopting healthy eating habits by choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods. The occasional sweet treat is okay when taken in moderation.20 

“Leave unhealthy treats like cakes and junk foods out of the pantry, so you won't be tempted to inadvertently turn to them,” advises Dr. Mira.

Additionally, physical activity should not be seen as a chore. To prevent this, choose exercises you enjoy and align with your abilities and schedule. For example:

  • Exercises you can do sitting down at your desk if you work from home
  • Running a trail if you prefer picturesque scenery
  • Fun dance-style exercise videos online

Exercise is more than just a means for weight loss. It’s a way to improve your health, boost your energy, and brighten your mood.

“Exercising also releases dopamine or the happy hormone. This leads to decreased stress levels,” says Dr. Mira.

Eating and exercising must both be met with positivity and self-compassion. Focus on your small wins and have fun with the journey.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Easier to Maintain Weight After Losing It?

After weight loss, your metabolism slows down and can increase your appetite. This may make weight maintenance challenging.

While maintaining weight loss is challenging, difficulty losing weight is also possible. However, this depends on various factors, like lifestyle habits, genes, and more.

When you have reached your ideal weight, established habits such as regular exercise and balanced eating should make weight maintenance more manageable.22

How Long Can You Sustain Weight Loss?

The National Weight Control Registry found that individuals who maintained their weight loss after two years had an approximately 50% chance of regaining it.23

However, the duration of weight maintenance depends on several factors, such as the speed of your metabolism and lifestyle choices. 

The most important practice in sustaining weight loss is staying consistent with healthy habits that include regular exercise, balanced eating, and readily available support systems.

Can You Go Back to a Normal Diet After Losing Weight?

This depends on how a normal diet is defined. Typically, it is not recommended to return to old eating habits that contributed to your weight gain in the past.

Instead, aim to maintain a balanced diet with whole, nutrient-dense foods. Include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats in your diet.

How Many Meals a Day Should You Eat to Maintain Weight?

How many meals you should eat daily depends on your preference and needs. Many individuals eat three meals, while others prefer smaller and more frequent meals.

There is no one-size-fits-all for how many meals you should eat daily to maintain weight.24

The most important aspect is your calorie intake and the nutrients you consume. Listen to your body’s cues and make sure you are following a balanced diet.

Additionally, eat at regular times. Avoid delaying or skipping meals when you are hungry to prevent overeating later.

Updated on July 3, 2023
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24 sources cited
Updated on July 3, 2023
  1. The Best Way to Lose Weight and Keep It Off Long Term, According to Experts”. EatingWell.
  2. Weight Loss Maintenance”. Stanford Medicine. 
  3. Maintaining a Healthy Weight”. National Institutes of Health.
  4. Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. Why it’s hard to maintain weight loss”. Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
  6. Health Benefits of Long-Term Weight-Loss Maintenance”. National Institutes of Health.
  7. Obesity”. Cleveland Clinic.
  8. What to do if you are underweight”. Healthdirect Australia.
  9. Importance Of Balanced Diet In A Healthy Lifestyle”. Narayana Health. 
  10. Health benefits of eating well”. NHS Inform. 
  11. Healthy Eating Plate”. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
  12. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance”. National Institutes of Health. 
  13. How much protein do you need every day?”. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Health Medical School.
  14. Picking Healthy Proteins”. American Heart Association. 
  15. Keeping It Off”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  16. When Is the Best Time to Weigh Yourself?”. Cleveland Clinic.
  17. Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet”. Mayo Clinic.
  18. 5 barriers to diet change and how to overcome them”. MD Andreson Cancer Center.
  19. Yes, drinking more water may help you lose weight”. Johns Hopkins University.
  20. How Excess Weight Impacts Our Mental and Emotional Health”. National Council on Aging.
  21. Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  22. Losing Weight”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  23. Predictors of successful long-term weight loss maintenance: a two-year follow-up”. BioPsychoSocial Medicine.
  24. Food Portions: Choosing Just Enough for You”. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases.
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.
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