Maintaining your weight loss can be challenging. Regaining weight that you’ve previously lost can feel frustrating and even scary. For some people, regaining weight can make them feel out of control and increase their risk of giving up on their healthy lifestyle goals.
If you find yourself regaining some of the weight you’ve lost, you’re not alone. Many people end up regaining some, if not all, of the weight they lost. Why is keeping the weight off for good so difficult?
Setbacks or relapses are common no matter what behavior you’re trying to change. Models of intentional behavior change, like the Transtheoretical Model by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, show that change is not a linear process.
A relapse or setback can happen even when you’re maintaining a successfully changed behavior. Understanding this and learning how to manage these setbacks can help you successfully maintain your goal and keep you from giving up on the healthy lifestyle you want.
What You Can Do if You Regain Weight You’ve Lost
Losing weight is an accomplishment, but it’s not the end of the journey. After losing weight, you need to learn how to maintain that weight loss. Creating healthy habits and routines that you can maintain are essential. This process can take time and may involve temporary setbacks. That said, it is possible to learn which habits help you keep the weight off.
If you’re struggling, taking time to learn what may be contributing to your weight gains can help you stop the pattern of losing and then regaining the weight lost. This process takes time and effort, but it’s worth it to help prevent further weight gains and help you learn how to keep the weight off for good.
1. Track What You’re Doing
When you were focused on losing weight, did you keep track of what you ate, the amount of time you spent exercising, your sleep, stress levels, or food cravings? If you kept a weight loss or health journal, read through some of your entries, especially when you started getting close to your goal.
Next, start tracking your current behaviors, even if you didn’t do this when losing weight. Tracking your behaviors and habits can help you identify any changes in your habits and routines that may be contributing to your weight gains. While you don’t need to track everything, focus on those habits and behaviors you feel you might be struggling with. If you want to try and lose some of the weight you’ve gained, keeping track of what you’re eating and the portions may be particularly useful.
Last, look for differences between what you were doing and what you’re doing now. What are the changes in your habits and routines? Perhaps, you are giving in to temptations or food cravings more frequently after reaching your goals. Maybe you’re not exercising as much or as intensely as you thought, or you’re not getting enough consistent sleep.
When reviewing the information, remember this is simply data that can help you and isn’t a comment on you. Try to maintain an open, problem-solving attitude and mindset. Use this information to learn what behaviors or habits you need to return to, so you can lose the weight regained. This information will also help learn what routines you need to maintain and monitor to keep the weight off.
2. Revisit (And Recommit) to Your ‘Why’
What was your original reason, your ‘Why,’ for losing weight? If you’re struggling to maintain your weight loss, reconnecting to why you wanted to lose weight can increase your motivation and drive. When revisiting your original reason, explore whether it still applies. Is there another more powerful reason that will help you stay motivated to keep the weight off?
Once you’ve reconnected to your ‘Why,’ try visualizing your reason so that you can see what it will feel like and be doing when you’re successfully maintaining your weight loss. To do this, try incorporating smells, sensations, and sounds when you think about your reason.
3. Brainstorm What Helped You Originally Lose the Weight
What has helped you lose weight in the past? Identifying what has helped you lose weight can give you a jump-start on losing any weight you’ve gained. However, also take time to brainstorm what habits have helped you maintain your weight loss. If you kept the weight off for several weeks, a month, a year, or even more, think about what you were doing during those times that helped you maintain your weight loss.
When brainstorming, also refer to your weight loss journal if you have one or any information you have tracked about your health habits. Combining these sources of information can provide you with additional insights and leads to what actions can help you.
4. Make Sure You’re Moving Throughout the Day
Have you had any recent changes in how much you’re exercising or moving throughout the day? Sometimes planned physical exercise isn’t quite enough to maintain our weight loss, especially as we age. In addition to intentional exercise like going to the gym, our bodies benefit from moving around throughout the day. If you’re sitting more at your job or don’t do as much yard work or house cleaning as before, then you might not be moving as much as you were when losing weight.
Try to make sure you’re moving around for at least five minutes every hour, especially if you sit a lot during the day. Consider using a fitness tracker or app on your phone to keep track of how many steps you take in a day to give you a sense of how much you’re moving.
5. Get Plenty of Quality Sleep
Sleep is essential for our bodies and mind and may also be connected with our weight. Research has found an association between lack of sleep and weight gain. When we don’t get enough quality sleep, we may feel more hungry, especially for high-calorie foods. Lack of sleep may also negatively impact our metabolism and the hormones involved in regulating hunger.
To make sure lack of sleep isn’t contributing to your setback, aim for seven to nine hours of sleep and set up good sleep habits, such as going to sleep at a regular time, getting up at a consistent time, and setting up a nighttime routine.
6. Remind Yourself of the Progress You’ve Made
When we’re concerned about gaining weight, it’s normal to focus on what isn’t working right now, so you know what to change. However, this tendency can cause us to lose sight of what we have accomplished and what is working. We risk becoming so focused on what isn’t working that we feel overwhelmed, lose hope, or give up.
To help, highlight to yourself the progress you’ve made and the healthy behaviors you are doing. Perhaps you now walk for 20 minutes every day after dinner, or you meditate every morning. Even if you’ve started to regain some weight, there are healthy habits and routines that you’re still doing. Take time to notice your accomplishments and acknowledge the healthy changes you’ve made and are maintaining.
You Have the Skills and Motivation You Need to Sustain a Healthy Lifestyle
Losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle is a journey. It’s common to run into obstacles, including regaining weight previously lost. Setbacks happen. Fortunately, you can control your reaction and how you manage the setback.
Use the opportunity to evaluate your current habits and routines. This situation is a chance to learn instead of putting yourself down. Return to the activities, habits, and routines that initially helped you. That said, also use this opportunity to evaluate your situation honestly. Make sure you have set realistic, sustainable health goals that will allow you to maintain a lasting healthy lifestyle that you will enjoy.