How to lose weight and keep it off: the successful weight maintainer part 1
How to lose weight and keep it off is such a common occurrence, yet it rarely grabs the headlines. We see a tonne of ‘before & after’ photos; we see very few ‘after the after’ photos. In this article I’ll discuss how to lose weight and keep it off.
Quote: “Weight control is a very complex process that depend more on changing the whole personal life than on changing single behaviours”
A great many people engage in losing weight each year. Of those that do, many people will succeed – in the short term. It is likely that, around the 3-6 month period, a large proportion of people who attempt to lose weight will do so. It is typical to see a decline in body weight, of anywhere from 2 – 10% of initial starting weight. However…
Of the individuals who succeed at losing weight, by the 3-6 month mark, a large majority of them will regain the weight by 1 – 2 years. In fact, it is very likely that nearly 90% of people who engage in weight loss attempts will regain any weight that they have lost. Worryingly, of those that do regain the weight (which is about 90% by some records), a significant proportion will actually regain the weight AND SOME, such that they end up – two years later – heavier than they were originally.
The before and after photos you see, either 3 or 6 months apart, are not displaying the complete picture/whole story regarding dieting. One measure of success – as well as actually losing weight – would be maintaining weight loss in the long-term. Although there appears no strict definition, weight maintenance of ~2 years might be deemed successful. This is what we’re after:
long-term adherence too, and a preference for, slight/subtle healthful behaviour change that produces maximum beneficial results, which the individual can stick too.
In summary, losing weight is actually not super difficult; weight maintenance, on the other hand, appears far more of a challenge.
How to lose weight and keep it off – maintaining weight loss
Elfhag & Rossner (2005) wrote a paper examining the associations between factors involved in weight loss & weight maintenance, and those individuals who were successful or not. In doing so, they provide clues as to perhaps where we, as practitioners, or people, as clients, should focus their energy. I’ll detail a few of them here:
Weight loss goals
It seems as though many who enter a process of weight loss/dietary change begin with unrealistic goals about what they can achieve. Simply, many people over-estimate how much weight they think they can lose. In addition, this often has no ‘basis’, and is simply guesswork. Women also tend to be more unrealistic than men.
Individuals who subsequently achieved weight maintenance better, had reached their self-determined goal. Thus, it suggests that beginning with a figure in mind, which is realistic, achievable, and time-bound, and has some reasoning behind it, would be more beneficial (than not meeting an unrealistic goal), such that when you do achieve it, it leads to greater long-term weight maintenance. [See HERE for a truly fantastic way to go about achieving your goals]
Why might this be? Increase in confidence, self-efficacy, self-esteem (??). In addition, why not have a goal that is ‘time bound’ i.e. lose 3 lbs by XXX – then, when that is achieved, re-evaluate, and set a new goal. That way you achieve multiple goals, keep things realistic, and see the process as a journey.
The converse might also have an effect – those who fail to reach their goal, no matter how unrealistic it was, might feel discouraged. Consequently, they may abandon their weight loss efforts.
Tip: if you are attempting to lose excess weight, perhaps aim for a 2% decrease in body weight initially. Give yourself 8 – 16 weeks to achieve this too. If you are successful, then consider a 5% reduction your next milestone [ 5% being: 5% from your original weight, not 5% further form the 2% already lost]. Plus, if you achieve that, consider it a really great achievement!!
Weight loss pattern
Interestingly, it seems as though, at least in some studies, that those individuals who lose more weight initially (in the early stages of their programme/treatment) actually do better in the long run. Why? Perhaps this demonstrates the person has complied well with the treatment, which maybe means they were more motivated initially, and would therefore have succeeded on another, completely different, diet. In addition, perhaps great initial weight loss also leads to greater motivation, feelings of self-efficacy, and a boost in confidence. Thus, they stick with it, under the assumption that what they’re doing is working.
Contrary to the above, other studies have found that greater initial weight loss leads to greater weight regain. This may in fact demonstrate ‘weight cycling’, which should ideally be avoided or at least minimised as much as possible. This may also be the result of short-term, ‘fad’ diets, typically those that involve ‘shakes’ or juicing.
Typically, effective advice is to lose 1 – 2 lbs of body weight per week. Depending on how much you have to lose, however, might influence a) whether this is achievable, and b) how successful long-term weight maintenance will be.
Thus, greater initial weight loss or a steadier weight loss, both lead to the possibility of success. One does not appear ‘better’ than the other, and they each have their own merits. One example would be that greater initial weight loss creates more ‘buy-in’ from the dieter.
That’s the end of part 1 of how to lose weight and keep it off. We now know that dieting is difficult, and not as easy as some marketing material makes out. Moreover, maintaining weight loss is far more of a challenge, and is often overlooked. Being more realistic about your weight loss goal, perhaps achieving a large degree of initial weight loss, or a more progressive decline in weight, will aid weight maintenance attempts.
Click Part 2 to read more about how to lose weight and keep it off.