If you even feel that way, you’re in good company. Most of us have lost weight at one time or another (some of us, many times), but the biggest struggle is keeping it off.
There are no exact numbers on how many people regain weight, but some estimates suggest that it’s anywhere from 80 percent to a whopping 95 percent.
There are things working against us when it comes to maintaining weight loss, some of which we can’t control, such as our age, gender, and genetics and others we can, such as how much time we spend sitting around, what we eat and how much we exercise. Either way, knowing what’s in store for you after you lose the weight can help you keep it off for good.
Beyond Weight Loss
We often focus so much energy on losing weight, we’re completely unprepared for what happens when we actually lose it.
We often have the belief that, once we lose the weight, we’re home free. We can finally get back to “normal” life, a life that doesn’t involve monitoring every bite, watching portion sizes and doing crazy exercise routines.
The truth is, you have to do at least the same amount of work to maintain your weight loss as you did to lose it in the first place, perhaps even more.
Knowing that, and understanding the factors that can contribute to weight regain, can help you stop the cycle for good.
Why You Regain the Weight
1. Unrealistic Diets and Exercise Programs
One major reason we regain weight is because, in an effort to lose weight fast, we often follow unrealistic diets that are simply not sustainable for the long term.
It may be a fad diet (such as the Master Cleanse), or something like The South Beach Diet or some other low-carb version of eating.
These kinds of diets often restrict entire food groups. Not only is that unhealthy, it’s almost impossible to follow for more than a short period of time.
As soon as you restrict something, you may find that your body starts to crave that very thing. That kind of thing is what can quickly end a diet.
If you add in an unrealistic exercise program, say going from very little exercise to seven days at the gym, it’s easy to see why weight regain is so common.
While you might lose weight initially, these extreme diets and exercise programs require such drastic changes that you can only follow them for a short period of time.
By restricting what you eat and working out like crazy, you might lose weight but you never learn how to change your habits for good. Losing weight too quickly can also have some unpleasant side effects such as:
- Physical problems – Losing a lot of weight very quickly can cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, constipation, gallstones and, for some, loose skin that may require surgery. That’s at the more extreme side of weight loss. If you stick with 1-2 pounds a week, you’re not likely to experience these problems.
- Loss of muscle – When you lose weight quickly, especially if you’re dieting without exercise, you not only lose fat, you lose muscle as well. That not only slows your metabolism, which contributes to even more weight gain, you may end up with more body fat after weight regain, leaving you worse off than you were before.
- Misery – Many diets are so restrictive, you cut out entire food groups, leaving you feeling hungry and deprived. Jumping into extreme exercise without slowly building strength and stamina leaves you sore, exhausted and burned out. Life isn’t much fun when you’re sore, hungry, and tired all the time.
Taking It Slow
If you want long-term weight loss, you need long-term change…a lifestyle change. Changing lifelong habits takes time and requires learning a variety of new skills and habits, something that doesn’t happen overnight.
You have to learn how to exercise: What you enjoy, how much you can handle, how to fit it into your schedule and how to stay motivated on a daily basis.
You have to learn how to make your exercise habit stick.
You also have to learn how to eat – How to monitor your portions, how to avoid emotional eating and how many calories you need. All of this while still managing to enjoy life without too many restrictions.