As part of an eight-year study that included nearly 50,000 women, Harvard researchers tracked what happened when people either slashed their intake of sweetened drinks or started consuming more of them. Not surprisingly, the participants who raised their sugary-drink intake gained weight and increased their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In fact, the more people's sweet-drink intake increased, the more weight they gained and the more their disease risk went up.
Maintenance is hard, but we’ve got good news! You don’t have to do it alone. A study in Annals of Internal Medicine found that low-intensity interventions could help obese outpatients who had just lost 16 pounds hold onto the progress they’d made. For 56 weeks, participants spoke to intervention contacts in group visits at first, then over the telephone with less and less frequency. By the end of the study, they weren’t in contact with anybody at all but still managed to only regain an average of 1.5 pounds. Those who hadn’t had any intervention contacts regained over three times as much weight. So whether you participate in a program or phone a friend, find people who can hold you accountable as you work to maintain your success.
For many people, losing weight is only half the battle — the bigger challenge is keeping the weight off over the long term. And it's no surprise that keeping weight off is difficult — studies have shown that the brain and the body are hardwired to regain lost weight. But don't despair: Research also has revealed that people who are successful in keeping weight off share some habits. They tend to do the following:
In our eat-and-run, massive-portion-sized culture, maintaining a healthy weight can be tough—and losing weight, even tougher. If you’ve tried and failed to lose weight before, you may believe that diets don’t work for you. You’re probably right: some diets don’t work at all and none of them work for everyone—our bodies often respond differently to different foods. But while there’s no easy fix to losing weight, there are plenty of steps you can take to develop a healthier relationship with food, curb emotional triggers to overeating, and achieve lasting weight-loss success.
“Long bouts of cardio don’t help weight loss. The body sees them as a long and uncertain search for food. [It] slows the metabolism to save calories,” explains Herbst. “Weight training raises the metabolism and builds muscle by causing tiny micro tears that the body works hard to repair over the next 48-72 hours. Additionally, the body builds additional muscle in anticipation of having to lift greater loads in the future.” The best weight-training movements that he recommends are complex multi-joint movements. These include squats, lunges, bench press, and deadlifts which use the major muscle groups.
To help you avoid useless nonsense that will cause some temporary weight loss, but won’t do dick in terms of causing any actual fat loss. This would be stuff like cleanses, detoxes, fasts and other similarly pointless garbage marketed as miracles to people who don’t understand the difference between fat loss and weight loss… in the hope that they’ll be so easily fooled by the fast initial decrease in body weight that takes place that they won’t actually notice there was no body fat lost… or that any weight (water) they do lose is instantly regained right after. Yes, that was a really long sentence.
Despite the media attention and all the information that’s available, people simply aren’t losing weight. But there are some very good reasons for this: too much misinformation is available, too many people rely on fad diets, too many people look for a pill to help them lose weight and too many people just don’t want to acknowledge that it takes some work to lose the weight. Yet for those who do work to lose weight, the end result is always worth it.
Or any activity that lowers stress. "The lower your stress, the lower your cortisol levels," says Fred DeVito of Exhale Spa. That means your body will store fewer calories as fat. If you're not sure yoga's for you, check out all the amazing things it can do for your body besides stress reduction in our report on 7 Surprising Reasons You Should Be Doing Yoga Now.
In a 2014 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, people were asked to report their food intake over the course of two days. Those who ate at a restaurant during that time took in an average of 200 calories per day more than those who prepared all their own meals, and those who ate in sit-down restaurants actually consumed slightly more calories than those who ordered from fast-food joints. When dining out, people also consumed more saturated fat, sugar, and sodium, so eating at home where you can prepare food in a healthier way is obviously the better choice.
Places like airports, drug stores, and even home-goods stores all sell food, but it's usually not very healthy. Instead of shopping until you feel famished then buying whatever unhealthy items are available near the checkout stand, plan ahead and pack a nutritious snack. Sliced apples and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, or Greek yogurt and nuts are all inexpensive and convenient options.
Almost everyone has heard the rule that it’s okay to eat anything and everything so long as you do so in moderation—but that may not be the best approach to lifelong weight maintenance, according to 2015 PLOS ONE findings. The study of 6,814 people found that the majority of the time, varied diets lead to weight gain. “Though it can be scary to imagine completely cutting out the foods that you love, eating everything in moderation is actually near impossible—especially when it comes to foods with addictive properties, like sugar. You’ll likely find yourself going back for more and more which can slow your weight loss results,” explains registered dietitian Cassie Bjork. “That’s why it’s actually more beneficial to completely cut out the foods that increase your cravings and keep you wanting more.” For example, if you know that chocolate is your #1 trigger food it’s best to cut it out altogether rather than trying to stick to a small serving. In the mood for something sweet? Check out these delicious weight loss smoothies!
Good point: Even if a weight or body fat percentage is achievable, at a certain point, the investment required to make it happen or sustain it just isn’t worth it, Moore says. And as Albers explains, the ultimate goals are to have energy, be healthy, be able to lead the life you want, and feel that your healthy habits add to, rather than take away from, the quality of your life.
National guidelines recommend that, for sustainable weight loss, a reduction in calorie intake of about 600 a day is needed. This could lead to a weekly weight loss of around 0.5kg (1lb). While it may not sound a great deal next to the promises of many quick-fix diets, it allows you to incorporate healthy eating habits into your lifestyle permanently, so you’re more likely to keep it off for good.’
Schedule "cheat meals" and gym breaks into your routine. “It’s hard to be consistently motivated and always be on your game. Give yourself a little bit of a reprieve," says Delaney. "Mentally, it’s not normal to constantly be on all the time, we need to unwind and relax. By doing something that’s not perfect, were allowing ourselves to revel in the moment and celebrate our success; it gives us a renewed energy to move on.” To do this, Delaney says to schedule one cheat meal a week, and to pick 1-2 days where you let your body rest. "Go out and have a slice of pizza and a glass of red wine. Your body needs that, not just physically, but mentally. Same with the gym. You don’t need to work out every day. Give your body that recoup time; physically and mentally it needs it. Give yourself a break so you can sustain that motivation. It’s an allowance instead of creating the ‘I messed up syndrome’ which causes you to get off track.”
There's one piece of advice every weight loss guru now agrees on: getting plenty of sleep is one of the biggest secrets to losing weight and keeping it off. (Try these effective sleep-boosting strategies if insomnia is responsible for your lack of sleep.) Research now shows that the body is most metabolically active during sleep, so the longer we sleep, the more we rev up our fat-burning engines. Lack of sleep also plays havoc with two key metabolic hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control hunger and satiety. Deprive yourself of sleep, and ghrelin levels increase while leptin levels decrease. The result: more craving, less feeling full. Even worse, when you're weary you crave "energy" foods, which usually means chips, sweets, baked goods, or soda. Put the two together and you can see how the typical type-A lifestyle gradually puts on the pounds.
“Protein requires your body to work a bit harder during digestion and absorption. And [it] has a higher thermic effect (think calorie burning) than foods high in carbs or fat,” explains Dr. Adams. “Simply stated, increased protein in your diet over time leads to more calories burned during the digestion and absorption process.” While this won’t cause the scale to move quickly, he says that it just may help you keep weight off throughout the year without sacrificing satisfaction in your diet.
The very notion of going “on” or “off” a diet is self-sabotaging. The key to sustainable weight loss is creating habits that you can (happily) live with pretty much forever, registered dietitian Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.S.D., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss, tells SELF. And in a previous review from the University of Toronto, after examining 59 scientific weight-loss articles, including 48 randomized control trials, researchers concluded that how easy a diet is for you to stick with may actually be a much better predictor of your weight-loss success than the actual diet you choose.
Even if you don’t typically order take-out, research suggests that just the mere presence of take-out food increases your risk of being overweight. One study printed in the British Medical Journal found that just having a lot of take-out options near your work or along your commute to work makes you twice as likely to be obese. Though you obviously have little control over what kind of establishments populate where you live and work, this is just another reason to practice healthy eating as often as you can.
Let's face it: the prospect of losing 20 pounds—or more—is daunting. That's why Rachel Beller, M.S., R.D.N., author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win, recommends setting a nearer-term goal weight that's around half of the total amount you want to lose—and focusing on that. "Having an easier-to-reach goal can help keep you motivated," she says. "And when you hit that first milestone, it gives you a chance to celebrate, re-evaluate your strategy and re-up your enthusiasm for the next stage."
You may have convinced yourself that you can overhaul your diet and start exercising every single day, but that's kind of like hopping on a plane to Antarctica with no itinerary. "You need a plan," says John Norcross, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Scranton, who has studied New Year's resolutions. "What, specifically, are you going to do differently?" Experts recommend doing a brain dump of all the changes you want to make, then starting with one tiny, doable tweak—packing a healthy lunch or walking 20 minutes a day. Once that's a comfortable part of your routine, put a bold checkmark on your list, then add another small change. Sure, baby steps take longer, but they work: a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicinefound that people who made one small change a week lost nearly twice as much weight as those who followed broader "eat less, move more" guidelines. And imagine how gratifying it will feel to see those checkmarks add up as the pounds fall off.
It's a one-time investment you'll never regret. Here's why: Strength training builds lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories — at work or at rest — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The more lean muscle you have, the faster you'll slim down. How do you start strength training? Try some push-ups or a few squats or lunges. Use your free weights to perform simple bicep curls or tricep pulls right in your home or office. Do these exercises three to four times per week, and you'll soon see a rapid improvement in your physique.
While it’s possible to lose weight without doing a single pushup or burpee, in order to keep it off, physical activity is must, says James O. Hill, PhD, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry. But not all workouts are created equal. Although cardio gets all of the glory, interval and strength training are the real heroes in the world of weight maintenance. These methods of exercise will help you replace flab with hard, sexy muscle which will boost your metabolism and make it easier to keep off those sneaky pounds. For the best results, do strength or interval training twice a week and aim for an hour of physical activity a day—that could mean walking, swimming or running errands. Just get off your tush and move! Why an hour? The majority of successful losers who have maintained their weight loss for an average of 5.5 years report moving for about an hour a day, according to the National Weight Control Registry.
Boredom isn’t just bad for your brain, it’s also bad for your waistline, especially if you’re trying to shed some pounds. According to a study in the Journal of Health Psychology, boredom actually strips you of your ability to make smart food choices; you become an “emotional eater,” What’s more, boredom turns you into the worst kind of emotional eater because you not only make the wrong food choices but also eat much more fattening foods than you normally would. To stave off boredom, try taking a walk or relaxing with a good book.
When something is off-limits, even if you’re able to avoid it for a while, you could end up bingeing on it later because you’ve gone so long without it. “So, instead of cutting, focus on crowding,” Glazer says. “If you crowd your plate and fill it up with more foods like veggies and protein, it simply allows less room for the other stuff.” In other words, shift your focus away from what you can’t eat, and celebrate the foods that will help you reach your goals.
Diets that involve removing – or severely limiting – specific foods or food groups that are nutritionally important are not going to be a long-term solution. The more extreme high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets limit fruit, vegetables and fibre, particularly in the early stages, while faddy diets based on single foods (cabbage soup, anyone?) involve eating a lot of one type of food and not much of others. Some diets also drastically limit calorie intake so you get results fast. However, a very low-calorie intake can leave you tired and hungry, so you give up, regaining the weight as quickly as it came off.
I’m a little confused about heavy, strength focused workout with caloric deficit. I was thinking that anaerobic exercises such as heavy workouts or HIIT would make your body use carbs as the first choice energy source, which may cause the glycogen inside the muscles to be used next as you are already low on carbs because of the diet. Should we go heavier on carbs on workout days?
Eating too little can be extremely dangerous for your body. According to Medical News Today, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 18.5 can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, developmental problems, a weakened immune system, anemia, and chronic fatigue. Healthline reports that the average woman needs about 2000 calories per day to maintain her weight and about 1500 calories to lose one pound of weight per week, though you should consult with your healthcare provider to see what's best for you.
We’ve been clear on the benefits of wild salmon, but those pink creatures are quite literally not the only fish in the sea. Generally speaking, fish provide one of the best sources of fatty acids known as omega-3s, which will help fend off waist-widening inflammation and are an excellent source of high-quality, lean protein. This allows them to help you maintain muscle mass, thus reducing excess fat accumulation. Some of our favorite healthy seafood include mussels, Atlantic mackerel, and bluefish, but be sure to educate yourself on the ocean dwellers with this list of Every Popular Fish—Ranked for Nutritional Benefits!