We’ve all been there—you lose weight on some weight loss plan or program, you feel great and you are rightfully proud of your accomplishment. After all, you probably had to work hard and you might have even felt deprived while going through the process. But now you look and feel great! Your doctor is thrilled because by losing weight and starting a basic exercise routine, you’ve also gotten your blood pressure down and your pre-diabetic state has reversed itself. Now that you have accomplished your goal, you automatically go off your weight loss plan because you’ve reached your goal—you’ve gotten there! And now the chances are you are going to join a club that has a large membership. This group consists of the 97% of people who lost weight and who gain most or all of their weight back. What can we do in order NOT to regain lost weight?
The best way to keep weight off is to lose it properly to begin with, and that means DON’T DIET! I still ask everyone I meet who is dieting—why are you spending so much energy on something we know is proven NOT to work? Weight loss is about lifestyle changes, learning how to eat correctly for you (not a standard, universal diet), changing bad habits into good ones, and doing enough exercise and activity to make a difference. But even if one loses the weight correctly, the question remains, how do we keep it off or at least limit any rebound to no more than 20% of the weight originally lost?
Obviously, if we learn new thinking and new habits and they become ingrained, this goes a long way into sustaining our new weight. However, new research is showing that certain aspects of activity and exercise leads to a greater chance of preventing regaining weight. This study done by Dr. Neville Owen and his associates in 2010 showed that even people who exercise according to public health guidelines, but sit for extended periods every day, are susceptible to metabolic syndrome (a combination of obesity, high blood pressure, elevated fasting
glucose and low levels of HDL good cholesterol). It showed a connection between too much sitting and, in spite of exercising 150 minutes per week, still developing heart disease.
Given this study, exercise physiologist and researcher Dr. Len Kravitz, began looking into this same effect on weight regain. He found, also looking at other studies that there were two main factors in the realm of exercise and activity that came into play in helping to keep off weight that was lost. One is called NEAT which stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. For our purposes, that means spontaneous movement or, movement that is not part of your planned exercise. The other factor that Dr. Kravitz sites as making a big difference is doing resistance training.
He also cited a study by G.R. Hutner last year took a group of 140 women all of whom were put on a calorie restricted diet and all lost enough weight to get their BMI to under 25. They divided them into three groups after they lost weight. 1) Aerobic exercise 3 times per week 2) resistance training 3 times per week 3) no exercise at all. All of these women lost about 25 pounds. Total daily expenditure of calories decreased some in the aerobic group, and the no-exercise group however in the weight training (resistance training) group, their daily energy expenditure increased by 63 calories per day. Those who were not exercising had a much larger caloric burn every day through NEAT or just regular daily movement. The conclusion of those conducting this study is that 1) activity in and of itself in addition to exercise and 2) including resistance training as part of exercise made a large difference in keeping lost weight off.
In order to keep weight off, here are some practical steps we can take to increase activity during the day to offset the negative effects of sitting too much. At the University of New Mexico, the Don’t Sit, Get Fit movement suggests the following:
15 ways to help add more activity to our daily lives.
- Take a walk break every time you take a coffee break
- Take up gardening for a hobby
- Take a walk after dinner when out with friends or home with family
- Take a walk break after you eat lunch
- Stand up and move whenever you take a drink of water at work
- Get a pedometer or tracking app and strive for 10,000 steps a day
- When working at your computer, stand up and move every hour.
- Stop at the park on your way home from work and take a walk
- Walk fast when doing errands
- Walk up and down the shopping aisles at the store even before you begin to shop
- Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling her/him
- Try interval walking; walk fast for short spurts interspersed with normal walking
- After reading 4 pages of a book get up and move a little.
And remember that there are also 5 thoughts that will help you keep off the weight you have lost:
1) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Look for “diet” and exercise buddies and be verbal about what you are doing. This, along with setting specific, reasonable goals is a tremendous help. Don’t be afraid to announce your goals to others and to write them down for yourself.
2) Pay attention to what you are doing. The one thing all weight loss experts agree on is that planning and tracking your food and exercise is an invaluable tool. It creates mindfulness and awareness.
3) Make weight loss a positive experience. This is something that will make you feel better about yourself. Being optimistic and having positive affirmations about your new way of life will only bring greater and better success.
4) Make gradual changes. There is no instant fix. Permanent change is gradual and it is a process. Too much, too soon is doomed to failure.
Changing habits is an extremely difficult task in any realm of life. Make one change at a time.
5) Failure IS an option—as long as you can get back on track. We are human beings and we all make mistakes, but how do we handle those mistakes and do we learn from them? All or nothing attitudes are doomed to failure.
It’s not just that all these ideas appear in studies and text books—I see it every day. Get rid of the diet mentality. Lose weight correctly to begin with. Include exercise, both aerobic and resistance training. Stay as active as possible regardless of exercise and keep to the five thoughts that can help you keep it off. All of that will “add hours to your day, days to your yea, and years to your life.”