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Weight Regain: What To Do When the Weight Comes Back

7 Strategies for Managing Weight Regain

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Updated February 15, 2014

Weight Regain: What To Do When the Weight Comes Back

Don't hide from a weight regain. Be proactive!

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Gaining back lost weight is frustrating. But it's also extremely common. Weight regain happens to most dieters to some extent. If it is happening to you, be proactive about managing it. First, find out why the weight regain is happening. Then, use these strategies to minimize the damage and get back to your goal weight.

7 Ways to Manage Weight Regain

  1. Revisit Your Diet. If the weight gain occurs shortly after you finished your diet, it's possible that the diet wasn't the best program for you. People who choose very low calorie diets or other restrictive programs tend to regain their weight more often. Consider choosing a less restrictive diet to lose the extra pounds. Pick one that focuses on building long-term lifestyle and eating habits that you can maintain.

  2. Exercise. Research published in the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine suggests that people who decrease their physical activity level during dieting are more likely to regain weight later. In their position statement, the organization recommends getting more than 250 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week to maintain your weight after a period of dieting.

    If you are already exercising and if you are healthy enough for vigorous activity, add some high intensity interval training to your workout schedule. This form of exercise burns maximum calories in a short period of time. Then add strength training as well. By building muscle, you'll help boost your metabolism.

  3. Increase non-exercise activity. A significant percentage of the calories you burn each day comes from non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT. It's easy to decrease your neat if you aren't actively taking steps to improve it. Do you sit at a desk all day? Do you take elevators instead of stairs? Do you watch more than an hour of television each day? If so, your NEAT may be lacking. Learn to increase your calorie burning potential by making small changes.

  4. Get on the scale. Participants of the National Weight Control Registry who have successfully maintained their weight say that they weigh themselves on a regular basis - once a day or once a week. Weight regain is easier to manage when there is a small increase on the scale rather than a large one so it makes sense to keep an eye on it.

  5. Get support. Have you let go of the support groups, online forums, or healthy friends who guided you through your initial weight loss phase? Those old buddies probably reinforced the healthy habits that you need to revisit if you want to lose weight again and keep it off. Reconnect with them and consider acting as a guide for other dieters.

  6. Keep a food diary. A food journal may have been part of your initial weight loss program, but if you are experiencing weight regain, you need to keep the journal again. A food diary will help you determine if your portion sizes have increased, if you are eating too often, or if you are eating too many carbs and not enough protein to feel satisfied during the day.

  7. Monitor your body composition. If you are eating well and exercising vigorously it's possible that your weight regain is muscle, not fat. The only way to know is to measure your body fat. If it turns out that you are building muscle, congratulations! Having a lean strong body will help you stay fit and active throughout your life.

Remember that weight regain is a common occurrence. If you notice the weight coming back, reach out and get help from friends, family or weight loss experts. And be sure that you give yourself credit for the continued commitment to your health.

Sources:

Kramer FM, Jeffery RW, Forster JL, Snell MK. "Long-term follow-up of behavioral treatment for obesity: patterns of weight regain among men and women." International Journal of Obesity1989;13(2):123-36.

By Lloyd Stegemann, MD. "Treating Weight Regain after Weight-Loss Surgery." Obesity Action Coalition

Donnelly, Joseph E. Ed.D (Chair); Blair, Steven N. Ped; Jakicic, John M. Ph.D.; Manore, Melinda M. Ph.D., R.D.; Rankin, Janet W. Ph.D.; Smith, Bryan K. Ph.D.. "Appropriate Physical Activity Intervention Strategies for Weight Loss and Prevention of Weight Regain for Adults." Medicine and Science in Sports and ExerciseFebruary 2009.

Christina Garcia Ulen, Mary Margaret Huizinga, MD, MPH, Bettina, Beech, DrPH and Tom A. Elasy, MD, MP. "Weight Regain Prevention." Clinical DiabetesJuly 2008.

Wing RR, Phelan S. "Long-term weight loss maintenance." American Journal of Clinical NutritionJuly 2005.

Priya Sumithran, M.B., B.S., Luke A. Prendergast, Ph.D., Elizabeth Delbridge, Ph.D., Katrina Purcell, B.Sc., Arthur Shulkes, Sc.D., Adamandia Kriketos, Ph.D., and Joseph Proietto, M.B., B.S., Ph.D.. "Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss." New England Journal of MedicineOctober 2011.

Wang, Xuewen; Lyles, Mary F., You, Tongjian; Berry, Michael J.; Rejeski, W. Jack; Nicklas, Barbara J. "Weight Regain Is Related to Decreases in Physical Activity during Weight Loss." Medicine & Science in Sports & ExerciseOctober 2008.

Weight Control Information Network. Very Low Calorie Diets. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed: February 8, 2013. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/low_calorie.htm#e

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