There could be many reasons, but it's a very common experience. In fact, only about two in 10 overweight adults are successful at losing at least 10 percent of their initial body weight and keeping it off for at least a year.
Theories abound as to why this occurs, but a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine took a fresh approach.
In their study, “Practices Associated with Weight Loss Versus Weight-Loss Maintenance,” the researchers examined practices of people who were successful at losing weight and those of people who were successful at maintaining their weight loss. They identified 36 practices used by at least 10 percent of the people surveyed. Interestingly, practices people reported using to lose weight were not necessarily the same as those they used to maintain the weight loss.
Of course, there were some key ingredients that appeared to help with both weight loss and maintenance: eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, limiting carbohydrates, controlling portions, planning ahead what to buy at the grocery store, reading nutrition labels, thinking about how much progress you've made, thinking about a healthy weight goal, and weighing yourself regularly. So, it's important not to forget any of those tactics.
But, if you're currently trying to lose weight, focus at least some of your efforts on these practices (which in this study helped with weight loss but not maintenance):
- Participate in a weight-loss program.
- Actively look for information about weight loss, nutrition or exercise.
- Eat healthy snacks.
- Limit intake of sugars.
- Plan what you eat ahead of time.
- Avoid skipping meals (including breakfast).
- Do different kinds of exercises, and exercises you enjoy.
- Think about how much better you feel when you are thinner.
- Write down how much you exercise each day.
On the other hand, try these practices if you're not actively trying to lose weight, but to maintain weight loss:
- Eat plenty of low-fat sources of protein.
- Follow a consistent exercise routine.
- Reward yourself for sticking to your diet or exercise plan.
- Remind yourself why you need to control your weight.
As the saying goes, your mileage may vary. But it's clear that people who successfully lose weight need to try different strategies to maintain their loss, and this study offers some guidance about what might be most effective.
Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or email@example.com.
Editor: This column was reviewed by Carla Miller, associate professor of human nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology. Miller helped author the study described in this column.