Losing weight can be a challenge, keeping it off over time an even bigger challenge…but we can help!
Weight loss can be a challenging endeavor. At any given time, nearly 25% of men and 40% of women in America are on a diet (Muth, n.d.). Despite this, obesity rates have hit 41.9% in the U.S. according to the CDC (CDC, 2022).
Nearly half of the population! The consequences of overweight and obesity are significant, and include but are not limited to the following (CDC, 2022):
Despite widespread knowledge of these consequences, weight loss can be a real challenge.
Even more challenging can be the maintenance of weight loss in the months and years that follow even successful programs and efforts (Hall & Kahan, 2018).
In a review of 29 studies focused on weight loss, approximately 80% of participants had regained their weight after 5 years (Hall & Kahan, 2018). In fairness, 20% of participants have managed to successfully keep their weight off (Varkevisser et al., 2019).
Still, with 8 out of 10 persons regaining their weight, the question has to be addressed! Why is it so hard to keep the weight off after you have lost it?
How can people assure that once they lose weight, they will be one of the 20% that keep it off for good?
This post shares research findings on why weight loss is so difficult to maintain–and, more importantly, strategies you can implement to keep the weight off for good!
Weight regain is common, but also preventable. Knowing the causes can help you take steps to prevent weight regain!
While clients who struggle with maintaining weight loss may feel a sense of failure, the reasons for weight regain are complex and involve a number of factors–many of these operating levels outside our conscious awareness (Hall & Kahan, 2018).
With obesity rates high and continuing to climb, it is clear that Americans live and work within environments that promote obesity (Hall & Kahan, 2018).
Environmental factors that drive weight gain and regain are reviewed below.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (2022) provides excellent examples of whole, processed, and ultra-processed foods as noted in this table:
|Minimally processed foods||Processed but still health-promoting||Ultra-processed foods|
|Whole foods need to serve as the foundation of your diet if you are to manage your weight long-term.
|These foods increase convenience but when chosen wisely can promote health.
Whole grain breads,
Canned Tuna/ Fish
Some Canned Fruits (Minimal Sugar),
|These foods are major drivers of overweight and obesity and their rise in consumption has matched the rise in obesity.
Sweetened Breakfast Cereals,
And much, much more.
Feeding an addiction! Fat, sugar, salt, and appearance–ultra-processed foods are major contributors to weight gain/ regain.
Americans now eat more frequently at restaurants, consume take-out food, or otherwise eat away from home for more than half of their food expenditures (Bleich et al., 2020).
One in 3 Americans eat fast food on a given day (Bleich et al., 2020). Research has shown that the more frequently consumers eat out at either a fast-food restaurant or a sit-down restaurant, the higher their body weight/ BMI (Bhutani et al., 2018).
In fact, eating out has a “dose effect” that for each additional meal consumed away from home per day/ week, a reliable increase in body mass index is noted (Bhutani et al., 2020).
From Netflix to sedentary jobs to urban sprawl to long commuting distances, our environment discourages movement and encourages a sedentary lifestyle (Hall & Kahan, 2018).
Combined with increasing caloric intake due to the reasons described above, it’s not surprising that the decrease in caloric burn due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle is leading to greater calorie intake versus output imbalances and skyrocketing obesity rates.
Resistance training is essential to prevent the loss of muscle tissue and preserve a more active metabolism when losing weight.
Weight loss can result in both fat mass loss and muscle mass loss (Willoughby et al., 2018). When people lose muscle mass, the following negative effects occur:
Fortunately, exercise can counter these effects, increasing lean muscle mass, increasing fat loss, and improving overall body composition. Indeed, exercise is a key component of sustaining weight loss (Muth, n.d.; Donnelly et al., 2009).
Research has noted that for each kg (or 2.2 lbs) of body weight lost, we expend 20-30 fewer calories per day (Hall & Kahan, 2018). This makes sense–after all–every step and move we make requires less energy due to us being lighter.
In addition to the reduction in calories burned daily due to being a smaller body size, research notes that for every kg (or 2.2 lbs) of weight loss, our appetite increases approximately 100 calories per day above our baseline appetite prior to the weight loss!!
To compensate for this increase in appetite, people will subconsciously gradually increase their portion sizes even though they may truly believe they are still “sticking to the diet” that helped them lose weight originally (Hall & Kahan, 2018).
This slow and progressive creep of increased food intake due to increased appetite explains the plateau effect along with the subsequent weight gain (Hall & Kahan, 2018).
Safe, permanent weight loss is achievable. Sustaining the key habits outlined below is essential if you wish to maintain your weight loss.
While the above factors can make permanent weight loss a challenge, many people successfully lose weight and are successful at keeping the weight off long term (Varkevisser et al., 2019).
In fact, 1 in 5 persons that lose weight successfully maintain their weight loss for years in spite of all the challenges noted above (Varkevisser et al., 2019).
Factors according to research compiled from nearly 50 studies describe the following factors that contribute to the success of lasting weight loss (Varkevisser et al., 2019).
Strong evidence supports the following behavior interventions (Varkevisser et al., 2019):
The above findings are not surprising, as they mirror research noting whole-food/ minimally processed plant-based diets (diets naturally high in fruits, and vegetables, with naturally low fat levels) are highly effective in helping people lose weight and improve a variety of long-term health conditions.
Interestingly, reports of high-stress levels were NOT associated with weight regain ((Varkevisser et al., 2019). According to the findings below, much more important than stress levels is how you cope with them.
The following psychological factors WERE strongly predictive of long-term sustained weight loss (Varkevisser et al., 2019):
Also noted under psychological factors was that family discouragement of healthy eating undermined long-term weight loss (Varkevisser et al., 2019).
Additional research findings for maintaining weight loss over time in addition to (and not in place of) the above interventions include (Hall & Kahan, 2018).:
Weight regain affects nearly 80% of persons who initially succeed in losing weight. However, it is possible to avoid this outcome by adopting research-backed habits and belief systems.
Believing in your self-worth and the value of having a healthy body, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat, having confidence and ability in maintaining an exercise program, maintaining high levels of physical activity, intentionally choosing healthy foods and portions, reducing or eliminating sugary beverages, and overcoming urges to overeat due to emotions–these are all key factors in long term weight loss success.
We have a team dedicated to your weight loss success–now, and for the long term!
At Lancaster Wellness, we have a multi-pronged approach to support you in your weight loss journey:
Lancaster Wellness offers the following evidence-based plant-based meal plans, we are able to support your health and nutrition goals using:
Reach out today to learn more about how we can help you optimize your health and nutrition!!! Live well!
Ahima R. S. (2009). The end of overeating: Taking control of the insatiable American appetite. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 119(10), 2867. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI40983
Bleich, S. N., Soto, M. J., Dunn, C. G., Moran, A. J., & Block, J. P. (2020). Calorie and nutrient trends in large U.S. chain restaurants, 2012-2018. PloS one, 15(2), e0228891. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228891
Bhutani, S., Schoeller, D. A., Walsh, M. C., & McWilliams, C. (2018). Frequency of Eating Out at Both Fast-Food and Sit-Down Restaurants Was Associated With High Body Mass Index in Non-Large Metropolitan Communities in Midwest. American journal of health promotion : AJHP, 32(1), 75–83. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117116660772
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Adult obesity facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
Donnelly, J. E., Blair, S. N., Jakicic, J. M., Manore, M. M., Rankin, J. W., Smith, B. K., & American College of Sports Medicine (2009). American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 41(2), 459–471. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181949333
Hall, K. D., & Kahan, S. (2018). Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. The Medical clinics of North America, 102(1), 183–197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012
The Heart and Strong Foundation of Canada. (2022). What is ultra-processed food and how can you eat less of it? Retrieved from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/what-is-ultra-processed-food#:~:text=These%20foods%20go%20through%20multiple,%2C%20hotdogs%2C%20fries%20and%20more.
Muth, N. D. (n.d.). Module 5: Practical applications in nutrition for weight management. American Council on Exercise: Weight Management Specialist Program.
Varkevisser, R., van Stralen, M. M., Kroeze, W., Ket, J., & Steenhuis, I. (2019). Determinants of weight loss maintenance: a systematic review. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 20(2), 171–211. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12772
Willoughby, D., Hewlings, S., & Kalman, D. (2018). Body Composition Changes in Weight Loss: Strategies and Supplementation for Maintaining Lean Body Mass, a Brief Review. Nutrients, 10(12), 1876. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10121876