Weight Loss Maintenance

Keep It Off!

Congratulations! You have achieved your weight goal. Now what? Since many studies show that people tend to regain weight over time, it is important to have a plan for weight maintenance. Long term weight management means a lifelong commitment to eating well and regular physical activity.

The good news is that MyNetDiary can help you sustain lifelong weight maintenance. Just like weight loss, weight maintenance is all about the calories. To maintain your weight, you need to balance calories intake with calories burned. Sounds easy, right? What is not so easy is the continued commitment to monitor your behavior so that you can take steps to correct minor changes in body weight before it snowballs into major weight regain.

How Do I Use MyNetDiary for Weight Maintenance?

Go to Plan section and choose to Maintain Weight for Weekly Rate. This will tell MyNetDiary that the goal is calories balance, not calories deficit for weight loss or calories surplus for weight gain. Since weight maintenance involves small ups and downs in weight, MyNetDiary adjusts the Daily Food Calorie Budget when your Current Weight goes up or down. For instance, I am weight maintaining at 130 lb but if I enter a Current Weight of 132 after the holidays, then my Daily Food Calorie Budget goes down a little bit, and my Weekly Rate changes from Maintain Weight to Losing 0.04 lb per week. My Target Date for this weight correction is 1-year from the date of my Current Weight entry. MyNetDiary calculates this Weekly Rate adjustment automatically when my Current Weight entry goes up or down if I have AutoPilot ON or if I update my Current Weight in Plan section.

Be sure to read Planning Weight & Calories at MyNetDiary so you understand how calorie targets are calculated, as well as how calories balance, deficit, and surplus relate to body weight change.

Do I have to be in Perfect Calories Balance Everyday to Maintain My Weight?

No, but over time, your average intake should be match your average calories burned. Recall that it takes a calories deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound of body weight or a surplus of 3500 calories to gain one pound of body weight. It is average calories intake and calories burned over time that affects body weight. Daily goals are useful because it helps us stay on track — did we have a calories surplus, deficit, or balance today?

Calorie Cycling is a feature available with Maximum membership. I think this is a particularly useful feature for weight maintainers since we can plan for specific high and low calorie days of the week. MyNetDiary does the math for us to distribute the remainder of the calories to the other days of the week. This helps us stay in long term calories balance for weight maintenance, especially during travel, holidays, and special occasions.

Here’s an example of how Calories Cycling works. If I always go out to brunch to my favorite cafe on Saturdays, then I can set my Saturday calorie goal 500 calories higher that day, and then let MyNetDiary calculate the calorie intake goals for the remainder of the days of the week. Ideally, I would do this at the start of the week. If I have two expected high intake days, then I set the desired calorie intake for those two days, and then MyNetDiary will distribute the remainder of the calories to keep me on track for meeting my weight goal. I can also enter a lower planned calories intake on days when I know I will not eat very much and MyNetDiary will bump up the calorie goals on the other days to keep me on track for weight maintenance.

Enter, change, or delete your data for this feature in Calorie Cycling area in Plan section. Once a calorie cycling plan is entered, your Daily Food Calorie Budget is renamed Average Food Calorie Budget. You can update or delete your calorie cycling plan at any time and MyNetDiary will adjust your daily calories accordingly. Calorie Cycling is currently available in web and Android applications.

How Often Do I have to Log My Foods Now?

Keep logging the same number of days for weight maintenance as you did for weight loss. Self-monitoring behaviors are very important for preventing weight regain. When you continue to log your foods, you keep a handle on your calories intake so that you stay in weight maintenance.

If you make a commitment to monitor weight maintenance as diligently as you planned for weight loss, then you are likely to keep the weight off permanently. Think of calories monitoring as a habit — similar to how you have made time for brushing your teeth, showering, shaving, and dressing. It is that important!

The critical error most people make is to think they are done with weight control activities once they reach their goal weight. Weight loss is only the first phase. The next challenge is to continue all of those behaviors that made you successful at weight loss, during lifelong weight maintenance. The difference is calories - during weight maintenance, your Daily Food Calorie Budget will be higher than during weight loss.

If you find that you are having difficulty finding the time to log your foods and exercise, consider that a red flag for weight regain. The highest risk for weight regain is right after you have lost weight and during the first 2 years of weight maintenance. It appears that if you can stay in weight maintenance for at least 2 years, then the likelihood of maintaining for up to 10 years is much greater. In other words, weight maintenance gets more manageable as time passes.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is especially critical during weight maintenance. There are a number of physical changes that occur with weight loss that set a person up for weight regain. Regular exercise works against those negative changes. A consistent exercise program helps keep total energy (calories) expenditure high, which can help offset the drop caused by weight loss. Regular exercise also supports lean body mass, appetite regulation, and possibly gut hormone levels that help rather than sabotage weight maintenance.

How much will be enough? Well, it depends upon you, your body, and the type, intensity, and frequency of activity you engage in. The National Weight Control Registry reported that their long term weight loss maintainers exercised an average of 1 hour per day, mostly in the form of walking. If you are able to engage in higher intensity exercise, it is possible that fewer minutes of daily activity might support your weight maintenance efforts as well.

The time you spend being physically active is worth it. Not only is it important for weight maintenance, but it is also incredibly important for managing blood pressure, blood glucose, stress, and to support bone and muscle strength. If you have lost weight and have diabetes, then daily activity, especially after meals or snacks, can be incredibly helpful in controlling the rise of blood glucose after eating.

How Often to Weigh-In?

Weigh yourself at least once a week to catch and correct creeping weight gain early on. Updating your Current Weight weekly will allow MyNetDiary to calculate your Daily Food Calorie Budget accurately, as it will go up and down as your weight changes. If you prefer to weigh yourself more frequently, then do so. Many people weigh themselves daily. I also strongly encourage people to weigh themselves a couple of days after travel or the holidays. Weight readings are useful data - are we sliding into weight regain or are we staying level?

If you have a history of eating disorders, please follow your healthcare provider’s recommendation on how or when to measure your body weight.

Problem Solving — Why Am I Regaining Weight?

If you find yourself gaining back some of that lost weight, then review your MyNetDiary charts and reports to determine if your average calories intake has shifted upwards and/or if your average calories burned has shifted downwards. If it has, then it is time to identify why the change has occurred. Sometimes this shift has occurred, but the records do not reveal it. In my experience, this happens when people start under-reporting actual intake, do not record consistently (so averages are only showing good days), and/or they simply stop monitoring all together.

Changes to the following are often linked with weight gain:

Work Schedule. This is a huge culprit in reducing calories burned and increasing calories intake. We start a job with a long commute and/or work hours and find ourselves with no time to exercise or make healthful meals. A major change in your work schedule will force you to rethink or adjust your plan for exercise and healthful meals. Do what it takes to insure that you have time for both. Consider taking five extra minutes to stair climb before and after your work day, in addition to walking during lunch (yes, take a break for lunch no matter how busy you are). As well, it is important to plan for healthful meals despite a busy schedule. Can you make time to bring healthful meals and snacks to work so you are not dependent on higher calorie vending, take-out or dining options? Do you know where you can find healthier fast food options near where you work? Can you cook and freeze over the weekend for healthful fast dinner options during the weekdays? If you do not plan to handle a major work schedule change, then I can almost guarantee that you will regain weight.

Travel. This is another change that results in a double whammy — increased food and beverage calories with a decrease in exercise. If you find yourself traveling more often now, then plan for how you can stay in energy balance. Walk the airports to burn calories. Request that you stay in a hotel with a gym, pool, or at the very least, a stairwell. Search the restaurants in the area in which you will be staying so that you can eat at those with healthier food options. Avoid or limit consumption of sweetened beverages and alcoholic drinks. Skip the bread, chips, and desserts. Avoid appetizers unless they include non-starchy vegetables or fresh fruit. Order a salad and/or at least two non-starchy vegetables with your entrée (and limit dressing).

Illness or Injury. If you find yourself unable to eat or exercise according to your typical pattern, and you expect this change to last for an extended time period, then you need a plan to maintain your weight. Physical therapists are highly skilled at helping patients remain active in almost any state of mobility — take advantage of their services if you can. For newly diagnosed food and digestion related diseases, please consider seeking individualized care with a registered dietitian.

If you have recently been put on a medication that you suspect is causing weight gain, then talk with your physician about your concerns rather than simply stopping the medication. Your pharmacist is also a good resource for information about medication interactions.

Caretaking. Whether it is taking care of your newborn or starting to care for an elderly parent, it is important to remember that to be a good caretaker, if you have to also take care of yourself. You will have to plan time for yourself, otherwise, you will not have it. Create a support system for yourself — which friends and family members can you count on to help you? Also find out about community-based support for help in taking care of your elderly family member (contact your local senior center or agency on aging). The more you plan for help and support, the more time you will create for yourself and maintaining your health.

Stress Management. Managing stress so that you do not shift back into old coping strategies is critical to maintaining your weight. If you find yourself in a chronically stressful situation, be proactive and get help. I am a big supporter of counseling and therapy, especially during stressful periods (divorce, death of a loved one, job change, moving a household, birth, etc.). Make the time and find the resources to get the help that you need before you feel like you are drowning.

It is possible that after weight loss, your Daily Food Calorie Budget overestimates your calories needed for weight maintenance. Although MyNetDiary uses the evidence-based energy equations from the Dietary Reference Intakes, your total energy expenditure after weight loss might be lower than expected. If you suspect this is the case, then consider lowering your Daily Food Calorie Budget by about 500 calories and see if that nudges you back into weight maintenance over the next few weeks. As you continue to log during weight maintenance, you will discover an average calories intake that keeps you in weight maintenance.

National Weight Control Registry

We all want to know how successful people tick. What do they do to be successful? If you are curious about how other people have successfully kept their weight off, visit the National Weight Control Registry: http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm. Anyone who has lost 30 lbs or more and has kept the weight off for at least one year is eligible to become a registered member of this site. Members report how they lost weight as well as how they continue to keep the weight off. These are some of the things that the long term weight loss maintainers do:

  • 90% exercise about 1-hour per day (walking was the most common activity)
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week
  • 78% eat breakfast
  • Most report that they still follow a lower calorie, lower fat diet

This registry would benefit from your data! The majority of registry participants are female, middle-aged, and white. They need to hear from more men and women of different ages and ethnicities. Please consider enrolling. Also, enrolling could be one way of keeping you accountable and motivated to stay in weight maintenance. You can learn more about enrolling in the registry here: http://www.nwcronline.com/join.aspx

People with Diabetes

If you have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, then weight loss maintenance is especially important to you. Regaining weight will likely result in a rise of your A1C blood level - an indicator of your average blood glucose over the past 3 months. A higher A1C is associated with more physical problems related to the eye, kidneys, and nerves.

If you have prediabetes, losing at least 7% of your starting body weight and keeping it off is critical to delay or halt the progression to Type 2 diabetes. Both weight loss (if one is overweight), and weight loss maintenance is critically important for anyone who needs to control their blood glucose.

10% of Your Starting Weight

Losing 10% of your starting body weight, and then keeping that amount off over the long term will support your health and reduce risk of chronic disease. Your blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose, insulin resistance, inflammation, and sleep apnea will improve with this modest amount of weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Even if you have lost a lot more weight than that, aim to never regain back to your original starting weight. For a starting weight of 200 lb, that would mean you stay at 180 lbs or lower. For 300 lbs, that would mean you stay at 270 lb or lower.

Summary

Congratulate yourself on having met your weight loss goal! Hopefully, you have shifted your thinking so that healthful diet and physical activity are no longer perceived as optional. To stay in weight loss maintenance, those behaviors will need to be maintained. That is, weight loss maintenance is an active process that we stay engaged in so that we successfully keep the weight off...forever. You can do this!

More Resources

Anastasiou CA, Karfopoulou E, Yannakoulia, M. Weight regaining: From statistics and behaviors to physiology and metabolism. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental. 2015;64:1395-1407.

Thomas JG, Bond DS, Phelan S, Hill JO, Wing RR. Weight-loss maintenance for 10 years in the National Weight Control Registry. Am J Prev Med. 2014;46:17-23.

MyNetDiary Blog Posts on Weight Maintenance:
http://www.mynetdiary.com/blog/Behavior-Weight-Maintenance_222-221.html
https://www.mynetdiary.com/oh-really-long-term-weight-loss-is-impossible.html

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE

Last Updated on May 14, 2018


Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

This article can be found at http://www.mynetdiary.com/weight-loss-maintenance.html