Losing weight is a difficult enough task, but keeping it off can be an even greater challenge. Many people will lose weight through a quick fix such as starving themselves or going on a fad diet, but as soon as they return to their old habits, the weight comes straight back.
Even dieters who take the slow-and-steady approach to weight loss sometimes can go back to square one. Permanent weight loss requires a lifelong commitment, and anyone who wants to lose weight but can’t make that commitment is in for a struggle.
The cycle of losing and regaining weight multiple times, which many people fall into, is called “yo-yo dieting.” It can be extremely frustrating, and has been linked to health risks such as lower levels of “good” cholesterol and gallbladder disease.
One theory is that a reduction in calorie intake causes a drop in the metabolic rate so that the body adapts and needs fewer calories to function. This makes it increasingly difficult to lose weight after each episode of losing and regaining. Whether this happens is still unclear, but in any case, physicians do not recommend extremely low-calorie diets and rapid weight loss. However, it is not true that yo-yo dieting increases the amount of fat tissue or fat distribution around the stomach.
Experts suggest losing no more than two pounds a week, as well as making long-term lifestyle changes. This approach increases the chances of successful long-term weight loss.
Maintaining weight loss is essential to get the full benefits of a healthy weight over a lifetime. Benefits include lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, less stress on bones and joints, and less chance of stroke or heart disease.
But keeping excess weight off takes effort, and the strategies that are needed for weight loss also are central to weight maintenance. Changes in diet, eating habits, and exercise must continue once the goal is reached.
With this in mind, support from others can help to maintain the weight loss. Belonging to a formal or informal support group leads to better weight maintenance than trying to go it alone. It is even more helpful if group members exercise together. Classes or team sports certainly will contribute to weight maintenance, and the commitment to a group can provide that elusive motivation.