Losing weight is straightforward: Eat fewer calories than you burn off and you'll lose pounds. Period.
Any diet that helps you eat fewer calories than your body requires will help you lose pounds. Keeping the weight off, however, is another story. Fewer than 10 percent of those who lose at least 10 percent of their body weight can keep it off for any significant period of time. That's why most people think diets don't work.
Diets do work. Weight maintenance is what's broken. That's why obesity researchers are now focused on studies looking at the metabolic and hormonal differences that occur once you lose weight. Recent studies of those who have managed to keep pounds off for several years reveal that how we lose and how we maintain require very different approaches.
Here, five ways to stop weight regain:
Research shows that people who have successfully kept weight off exercise 60 to 90 minutes a day. More exercise is essential for successful weight maintenance because it helps counterbalance the drop in one's metabolic rate that occurs when you lose weight. If you're not that active right now, strive for 30 to 45 minutes a day, most days a week. The best type exercise for helping you stay slim is a combination of aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training, and strength training.
Aerobic exercise helps burn calories, interval training results in greater boosts to your metabolic rate compared to lower-intensity exercise, while strength training helps build muscle tissue, which burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissue. Since our muscles and cardiovascular system adapt to exercise workloads quickly, be sure to change up your routine frequently.
Monitor Your Weight Weekly
One of the other major habits of highly successful dieters is once-weekly weigh-ins to avoid letting pounds creep back. (It's not necessary to weigh yourself more than once a week, as doing so may only drive you crazy.) Once dieters reach a goal weight, they often believe they can put their bathroom scale away once and for all. Not so fast. Remember, pounds come off slowly but are quick to pile back on. As soon as you see the needle headed north, do what you did to lose the weight in the first place, so you can quickly correct course.
Keep a Journal and Review It
One of the major reasons people regain lost weight is that they start eating the way they used to. Keeping a diet journal will help you see first-hand what and how much you're eating so you can identify what you're doing right and wrong. If your journal shows that the berries and beans you ate when losing weight are replaced now with brownies and beer, those lost pounds are going to find you sooner or later.
Limit Dining Out and Drinking
Every meal eaten out ups your odds of gaining back pounds. Successful dieters tend to take control over what they eat, preparing most of their meals and snacks at home. If you limited alcohol and meals out while you lost weight, you can't expect to maintain that weight loss by enjoying adult beverages and frequenting restaurants more than a few times a week.
Eat a Protein-Packed Breakfast
One of the most consistent formulas for maintaining your leaner frame is eating a protein-rich breakfast. In fact, some studies suggest that replacing poor-quality carbohydrates with lean protein can help shift your metabolism and hunger hormones in ways that make your goal weight easier to maintain. At the very least, start your day right with a protein-packed meal that contains only low-glycemic carbs. Some of my favorite hunger-curbing breakfasts include a veggie omelet, nonfat Greek yogurt with fruit, or my favorite almond butter and banana protein pancake recipe: www.appforhealth.com/2012/03/protein-pancake-recipe/.
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Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD, is a San Francisco Bay area-based registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, certified Level 1 CrossFit instructor, and writer. Her work has appeared in many national magazines and newspapers including Cooking Light, Prevention, Runner's World, and the New York Times. You can read more of her posts at www.AppforHealth.com, the website she cofounded.