By Allen Chapman, PA-C

Most people who lose weight eventually experience some weight regain. The first year after reaching goal weight is where most folks stumble. There are many things we can do to improve our chances of succeeding at ongoing weight maintenance. An important initial step is to make a conscious decision to transition to weight maintenance. Another important step is to shift our personal goals from following a structured plan to sustaining the healthy habits we developed while losing weight.

When it comes to keeping it off, we must think of ourselves as works in progress. We must continue to work on maintaining our new set of healthier habits. While it isn’t necessary to remain on the tightly structured weight loss plan we followed while losing weight, we also won’t be able to eat the way we did before we lost weight. Our new eating pattern will fall somewhere in between. We will also have to sustain our exercise habits for the rest of our lives.

In maintenance, we must strive to live a life in balance. We should strive to keep our weight within a +/- 2% range. It is also useful to choose a ‘restart’ weight beyond which we aren’t willing to gain. As an example: a 195-pound person would stay within about +/- 4 pounds, and their ‘restart’ weight would be 200 pounds. If they hit their ‘restart’ weight they would go back on a structured weight loss plan for a week or two to get back into their desired weight range.

The National Weight Control Registry is a long term ongoing study into the behaviors most closely associated with weight maintenance following substantial weight loss. This study gives us the best insight into this complicated topic. The NWCR reveals the following information about successful maintainers: 78% eat breakfast every day, 75% weigh themselves at least once a week, 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week, and 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

Complicated problems are best resolved by distilling the solution down to the simplest steps possible. To keep the weight off we need to: eat breakfast every day, exercise about an hour a day, avoid spending too much time in front of a TV, weigh at least once per week and act if we hit our restart weight. Remember, living a balanced life can be a very fulfilling experience. Embrace the lifestyle required to succeed and receive a lifetime of benefits from your efforts.