What’s the Difference? Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance Explained

Article posted in: Nutrition
weight maintenance

You already know how weight gain happens: Too much food and too little exercise for far too long. Hopefully you also know how weight loss happens—at least on the South Beach Diet: You retrain your body to burn fat as fuel by eating wholesome, nutritious, low-carbohydrate foods. You also must exercise regularly, drink plenty of water and be dedicated to your goal. But how does weight maintenance happen? How do you live a happy, healthy life after South Beach Diet ends? How do you ensure all your hard work isn’t for naught?

According to Harvard Health and research from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), you maintain weight loss success by remembering and practicing what you learned—for life. Some 10,000 participants included in NWCR research were able to maintain weight loss of at least 30 pounds for one year by doing some of the very same things you did on your weight loss journey.

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Check out four simple habits you should keep on your weekly agenda to achieve weight maintenance:

1. Exercising


As long as you continue to move—for an hour a day, if possible—you’ll keep weight off, according to NWCR members. That doesn’t mean you have to find time to go the gym every single day (unless you want to). You can jog before work, walk at lunch or go hiking with your family over the weekend. Just make a conscious effort to stay off the couch. In a 2015 study published in Ethnicity and Disease, some women who intentionally lost 10% of their body weight saw an increase in BMI and poorer weight loss maintenance (over a four-year period) with each additional daily hour of sedentary time.

2. Eating a Balanced Diet

balanced diet

Successful NWCR members reported maintaining a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends and starting the day with a healthy breakfast. If you plan out your daily snacks and meals, you’ll never be forced to put convenience before nutrition. Yes, you’ve got the green light to enjoy all foods now. But remember that moderation is key and you must watch your portions. Don’t finish your plate at a restaurant—take half (or more!) to go. Don’t have a giant slice of apple pie; keep sweets and treats small.

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3. Holding Yourself Accountable

holding yourself accountable

Weight gain can sneak up on you. A week of carefree behavior can lead to trouble—months of it can certainly undo all you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. NWCR members that kept a food journal and weighed themselves regularly were more successful at weight maintenance. Just over a third of participants made weighing in a regular practice. Those who weighed themselves less often tended to regain more weight. Harvard Health suggests consistent weigh-ins allow small weight gains to be detected and therefore immediately addressed.

4. Ask for Help When You Need It

weight maintenance

You still need a support system post-diet. Personal trainers, exercise-class instructors, nutritionists and friends who recently lost weight can keep your motivation going and healthy habits top-of-mind. When you feel like you are resorting back to old habits, look for your support system to get back on track with your healthy lifestyle.

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Good news!

Ready for some good news? If you can make it to two years without re-gaining weight, you can be successful for life. According to a 2005 study reported in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, individuals who stayed on track with their weight maintenance for two to five years saw a greater chance of longer-term success. Continued adherence to diet and exercise strategies, low levels of depression and disinhibition, and medical triggers for weight loss are also associated.