Weight Maintenance: The Stage that Isn’t Talked about Enough

The importance of weight maintenance

Weight maintenance is a crucial piece of the puzzle if we’re looking at the entire picture of weight management. Nonetheless, it often gets brushed under the table when compared to the topic of weight-loss. For the person who has struggled with weight their entire life, or whose weight has become of great concern to them, it’s easy to be hyper-focused on getting the number on the scale to go down. But what about after?

Successful weight-loss does not guarantee weight maintenance. Actually, research will argue that the strategies for both can be very different. For instance, diet seems to be the driving factor in weight-loss while exercise seems to be the driving factor in weight maintenance.

We have to acknowledge that maintaining weight-loss can be hard, and this is exactly why the topic of weight regain is extremely relevant.

What Happens after Weight-loss?

Significant weight loss (more than just a few pounds) changes the body, and not just by way of appearance. Your biology changes, too. Much of these changes can be attributed to differences in the hunger hormones Ghrelin and Leptin.

  • Decreased Fullness: Your Leptin levels drop, leaving you less satiated after eating. After finishing a meal, you might feel the urge to keep eating because you’re not quite full.
  • Increased Hunger: Your Ghrelin levels rise, which might make you feel hungrier at a baseline level than you previously were before.

Your biology, including the hormones mentioned above, might change a lot with weight-loss. This can also include changes to your metabolism. With a smaller body, you need less energy from food. Yet at some point, you can’t reduce your calorie intake to almost nothing. You still need food to survive, and your body may respond to food a lot differently now.

Weight Maintenance Factors that Correlate with Success

At the Obesity Action Coalition’s 2017 Annual Convention, Dr’s. Robert Kushner, MD; and Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, covered the topic of weight maintenance in great detail. Both doctors emphasized that weight maintenance can be incredibly challenging when compared to weight-loss, but research points to certain factors that correlate with long-term success.

Behaviors Consistent with Long-term Weight Maintenance:

  • Staying in contact with support groups and accountability partners
  • Weighing yourself regularly (at least once per week)
  • Maintaining a calorie balance and dietary vigilance
  • Boosting physical activity and reducing sedentary time
  • Keeping a regular meal rhythm that includes breakfast
  • Learning to effectively manage stress and triggering life events
  • Practicing ongoing consciousness and mindfulness
  • Continuing to set non weight-related health goals

Characteristics of People Who Tend to Keep the Weight off:

  • Capacity to handle cravings
  • Self-efficacy and self-regulation
  • Autonomy
  • Stability in life
  • Healthy narcissism
  • Capacity for close relating
  • Adherence to goals and healthy behaviors

Dr’s. Kushner and Kahan talked extensively about these factors in their presentation. CLICK HERE to check out the Obesity Action Coalition’s Digital Video Library where this session is recorded and available to view.

With all of this said, there’s one thing that remains the same regardless of what stage in weight management you are in: life. Everyday life and major events will continue to challenge us physically, mentally, etc. In fact, Dr. Kushner calls this “Lessons Learned from Taking a ‘Life Events History.'” When his patients come in wanting help to manage their weight, he asks them to map out their life events that correlated with both weight-loss and weight gain.

These are some common themes:

  • Graduating from high school and college
  • Marriage and divorce
  • Starting a family; becoming pregnant
  • Personal illness and family illness
  • Death of a loved one
  • Stressful jobs
  • Menopause

Such life events affect us in different ways. We each have our own past experiences and struggles that impact our health, and therefore our weight. We have different personalities, preferences, challenges and histories. Your biology is also unique. For these reasons and many more, Dr’s. Kushner and Kahan emphasize an individualized approach to weight-loss and weight maintenance. Your best coarse of action is to work with a team of healthcare professionals to see what works for you in any and every stage.

CLICK HERE to view the full live stream presentation, proudly brought to you by the Obesity Action Coalition.

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