Maintaining Weight Loss

I recently lost a lot of weight and am now afraid to eat almost everything, because I do not want to gain back the weight I lost. What can I do?

Healthy Food

Question: I recently lost a lot of weight and am now afraid to eat almost everything, because I do not want to gain back the weight I lost. What can I do?                 
-Anonymous Reader

Answer: Congratulations to you on your recent weight loss! The thought and challenge of maintaining that weight loss can be daunting, but do not worry; it can be done! Use some or all of these tips to keep that weight off for good:

  • Re-evaluate your calorie needs—and yes, you need calories. Now that you’re at a new baseline weight and are no longer actively losing weight, your calorie needs for weight maintenance likely look different from your previous daily calorie goals for weight loss. Use calorie trackers, like MyPlate’s SuperTrackerMyFitnessPal, or other apps reviewed by registered dietitians, to estimate calorie needs, calories eaten, and calories burned through exercise.
  • Monitor your diet and maintain a consistent eating pattern 365 days per year. Keep your eye on portion control by following the MyPlate guidelines; aim for 4-5 meals/snacks per day, with most meals and snacks eaten during the daytime rather than the evening. Eat breakfast daily and choose nutrient-dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, low-fat protein sources, and whole grains, more often than energy-dense foods, like foods laden with added sugars or fat. (**Occasional treats are okay—as long as they remain only on occasion.)
  • Plan ahead. Know when, where, and what you are going to eat throughout the day so your diet doesn’t get derailed by a surprise box of donuts at work, mid-afternoon candy bar craving, or dinner buffets. If you’re going out to eat, use to find restaurant meals low in calories, fat, and sodium that can help you stick to your healthy eating pattern.
  • Continue to engage in exercise. Studies show that people who regularly exercise are most successful at keeping weight off. For the most extensive health benefits and weight maintenance success, national recommendations encourage adults to aim for at least 300 minutes per week of moderate activity (like walking briskly, water aerobics, or gardening) or 150 minutes per week of vigorous activity (like jogging or running, aerobic dancing, or hiking hills). If you’re not yet to this level, set small goals to work your way up.
  • Weigh yourself once per week. Monitoring your weight on a regular basis will help you catch small weight gains early so that you can address them before they become larger weight gains. Do not let this relationship with the scale become an unhealthy one by weighing yourself daily or even multiple times a day. Daily and hourly weight fluctuations are completely normal and should not be mistaken for weight maintenance success or failure.
  • Meet with a registered dietitian in your area. Dietitians are the food and nutrition experts who can best help you create a personalized weight maintenance plan and discuss healthful eating patterns and your other nutrition-related questions.
  • Consider enrolling in the National Weight Control Registry to help researchers gather data on successful tools for weight loss and weight maintenance that others, like you, can use to achieve weight loss success.