UAB Nutritionist Dr. Beth Kitchin joins us with some startling news and how you can continue to make changes to your diet. Everyone knows that keeping the weight off is the toughest part of dieting. We've all heard the statistic that most people gain the weight back. Well, here's some really depressing news: the weight gain may start right after the diet stops with no "maintenance period". That's the finding of a study published in the most recent edition of the scientific journal Obesity.
Before this, most studies followed up with people several months after their diet program ended and found that they had gained some weight back. In this study, the follow up started right after the weight loss phase was over. The researchers enrolled 70 adults into a 12-week internet-based weight loss program. After the program was over, the participants self-weighed for 9 months using "smart scales" that send the data immediately to a computer. During these 9 months, they had no weight loss or maintenance intervention – just daily weighing on their own. The researchers found that the participants lost weight during the 12-week diet program at a rate of about 1 pound a week. Once the dieting phase was over, they started regaining pretty much right after they stopped the diet. Participants gained back .15 pounds a week for the first 11 weeks.
After 32 weeks, the regain slightly slowed but continued. After a year, they had kept off some of the weight – on average, about half of what they lost. It's important to point out that this was one study with one type of diet program. It's possible that longer term programs and programs that are face to face could have different results. But there's no doubt that weight maintenance is a problem. So, how can you keep from regaining weight after a diet? There are no clear-cut answers, but here are some tips.
Strategies or Weight Maintenance:
- It's possible that once you lose weight, keeping it off just isn't as much fun. You may not see yourself as accomplishing anything and so the motivation to eat well isn't as strong.
- You might also have the "I'm either dieting or I'm not dieting" mindset and once the diet is over, you go back to some of your old eating patterns.
- This is where choosing a diet plan is so important. It's got to be something you can modify for maintenance and stick with in the long term. If it's a diet that's hard to stick with, you'll likely gain the weight back.
Have a Plan:
- Plan for some weight regain and then plan to take it off. You should write down exactly what you will do if you start gaining weight.
- For instance, if you weigh yourself once a week and you notice the scale nudging up, your plan might tell you to resume to keeping a food record and cut back on desserts.
- Exercise isn't a big factor in weight loss, but it does seem to help you keep the weight off. One of the things successful weight losers have in common is that they exercise about 5 hours a week!
- Hire a dietitian to help you develop an eating plan that will help you keep the weight off.
- There may also be a support group in your area where other people are also working towards the same goal.
Stay in a Program:
- Try to find a diet program that includes lifelong maintenance – like Weight Watchers. Many obesity experts feel that we should view weight management as a lifelong problem requiring lifelong attention.
Source: Ross KM, Qiu P, You L & Wing R. 2018 Characterizing the pattern of weight loss and regain in adults enrolled in a 12-week internet-based weight management program. Obesity 26-2: 318-323.