Want To Maintain A Healthy Weight? These 3 Things Are Key
When it comes to losing weight and getting in shape, people put a lot of thought into the goal they're working toward. But what happens when you finally reach that goal?
One 2018 analysis of 29 individual weight loss studies found over half of lost weight is regained within two years on average, and over 80% is regained within five. So, how exactly does one keep the weight off?
To find out, a new study by California Polytechnic State University surveyed nearly 5,000 WW (formerly Weight Watchers) members who had successfully kept off 50 pounds on average for over three years. The researchers looked at the WW members' reported weight management strategies and compared their lifestyles to a control group of over 500 obese people who hadn't lost or gained much weight in five years or more.
By looking at 54 different behaviors related to managing body weight, researchers were able to figure out which ones are the most important for maintaining a consistent, healthy weight. Here's what they found:
1. Choose food wisely.
It may come as no surprise that one of the most important things you can do for weight management is figure out what a healthy diet looks like—for you—plus how to keep up with it over time.
In this particular study, researchers observed that those who had successfully kept off lost weight often reported strategies like setting daily food intake goals. But of course, to set those daily food goals, you first have to know what a healthy diet looks like for you!
One recent ranking of the best diets for overall health in 2020 found the Mediterranean diet to be the healthiest for the third year in a row, followed by the DASH diet and flexitarian diet. You can take a look at the entire list here, and do some experimenting to monitor weight loss, gain, or consistency based on your diet—as well as finding a way of eating you enjoy.
2. Get used to tracking it, too.
Of course, just as important as what you eat is how much you eat. It doesn't matter how "healthy" the foods you eat are if your portions are off (too many carbs, not enough healthy fat or protein, etc.), no amount of fruits and vegetables can undo it.
And as this study found, the folks who had successfully lost weight and kept it off also reported measuring foods, tracking what was eaten, and other self-monitoring techniques. After all, they do say, "What gets measured gets managed."
One study even found participants had to use a food-monitoring app for only 15 minutes a day to successfully lose weight over six months. So if you keep up with your tracking, research suggests you'll be able to keep weight off, too.
3. Gas yourself up!
And lastly, the third factor found to be important for weight management was psychological coping strategies, including positive self-talk and staying optimistic if some weight is regained—because mindset is everything.
Here are some tips on how to shift your mindset in the midst of a weight loss plateau, plus some mantras for positive self-talk. And just as useful, here are some strategies to mitigate negative self-talk, too.
If this factor sounds particularly challenging for you, consider the weight loss app Noom, which places a big emphasis on the psychology behind weight loss (or lack thereof) by diving deep into your relationship with food and your overall health.
But namely, be gentle with yourself, encouraging yourself along your journey as you would a friend.
And remember, practice makes perfect: Professor Suzanne Phelan, Ph.D., who led the study says, "Healthier choices also became more automatic the longer people continued to make those choices [...] Over time, weight loss maintenance may become easier, requiring less intentional effort." That's good to hear!
So keep at it, and give these strategies a try to maintain your healthiest weight. Eat well, foster awareness toward your lifestyle choices, and be nice to yourself along the way—always.
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Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.