Unfortunately, many people who
lose weight end up gaining it back.
In fact, only about 20% of dieters who start off overweight end
up successfully losing weight and keeping it off in the long
However, don’t let this discourage you. There are a number of
scientifically proven ways you can keep the weight off, ranging
from exercising to controlling stress (1).
These 17 strategies might be just what you need to tip the
statistics in your favor and maintain your hard-won weight
Why People Regain Weight
There are a few common reasons why people gain back the weight
they lose. They are mostly related to unrealistic expectations
and feelings of deprivation.
Restrictive diets: Extreme calorie
restriction may slow your metabolism and shift your
appetite-regulating hormones, which are both factors that
contribute to weight regain (2).
Wrong mindset: When you think of a diet as a
quick fix, rather than a long-term solution to better your
health, you will be more likely to give up and gain back the
weight you lost.
Lack of sustainable habits: Many diets are
based on willpower rather than habits you can incorporate
into your daily life. They focus on rules rather than
lifestyle changes, which may discourage you and prevent
Summary: Many diets are too restrictive with
requirements that are difficult to keep up with.
Additionally, many people don’t have the right mindset before
starting a diet, which may lead to weight regain.
1. Exercise Often
exercise plays an important role in weight maintenance.
When you are in energy balance, it means you burn the same
number of calories that you consume. As a result, your weight
is more likely to stay the same.
In some instances, even higher levels of physical activity may
be necessary for successful weight maintenance. One review
concluded that one hour of exercise a day is optimal for those
attempting to maintain weight loss (1).
It’s important to note that exercise is the most helpful for
weight maintenance when it’s combined with other lifestyle
changes, including sticking to a healthy diet (8).
Summary: Exercising for at least 30 minutes
per day may promote weight maintenance by helping balance
your calories in and calories burned.
2. Try Eating Breakfast Every Day
Eating breakfast may assist you with your weight maintenance
Furthermore, eating breakfast is one of the most common
behaviors reported by individuals who are successful at
maintaining weight loss (1).
One study found that 78% of 2,959 people who maintained a
30-pound (14 kg) weight loss for at least one year reported
eating breakfast every day (12).
However, while people who eat breakfast seem to be very
successful at maintaining weight loss, the evidence is mixed.
In fact, skipping breakfast may even help some people achieve
their weight loss and weight maintenance goals (15).
This may be one of the things that come down to the individual.
If you feel that eating breakfast helps you stick to your
goals, then you definitely should eat it. But if you don’t like
eating breakfast or are not hungry in the morning, there is no
harm in skipping it.
Summary: Those who eat breakfast tend to
have healthier habits overall, which may help them maintain
their weight. However, skipping breakfast does not
automatically lead to weight gain.
3. Eat Lots of Protein
increases levels of certain hormones in the body that induce
satiety and are important for weight regulation. Protein has
also been shown to reduce levels of hormones that increase
hunger (19, 20).
Based on several studies, it appears that protein’s effects on
metabolism and appetite are most prominent when about 30% of
calories are consumed from protein. This is 150 grams of
protein on a 2,000 calorie diet (21, 22, 23, 24).
Summary: Protein may benefit weight
maintenance by promoting fullness, increasing metabolism and
reducing your total calorie intake.
4. Weigh Yourself Regularly
Monitoring your weight by stepping on the scale on a regular
basis may be a helpful tool for weight maintenance. This is
because it can make you aware of your progress and encourage
weight control behaviors (25).
In one study, people who weighed themselves six days a week, on
average, consumed 300 fewer calories per day than those who
monitored their weight less frequently (26).
How often you weigh yourself is a personal choice. Some find it
helpful to weigh in
daily, while others are more successful checking their
weight once or twice a week.
Summary: Self-weighing may aid weight
maintenance by keeping you aware of your progress and
5. Be Mindful of Your Carb Intake
Eating too many refined carbs, such as white bread, white pasta
and fruit juices, can be detrimental to your weight maintenance
Limiting your carb intake overall may also help you maintain
your weight loss. Several studies have found that, in some
cases, those who follow low-carb diets after weight loss are
more likely to keep the weight off in the long term (30, 31).
Additionally, people following low-carb diets are less likely
to eat more calories than they burn, which is necessary for
weight maintenance (32).
Summary: Limiting your intake of carbs,
especially those that are refined, may help prevent weight
6. Lift Weights
Reduced muscle mass is a common side effect of weight loss
It can limit your ability to keep weight off, as losing muscle
reduces your metabolism, meaning you burn fewer calories
throughout the day (34).
Doing some type of resistance training, such as lifting
weights, may help prevent this loss of muscle and, in turn,
preserve or even improve your metabolic rate.
To receive these benefits, it is recommended to engage in
strength training at least twice a week. Your training regimen
should work all muscle groups for optimal results (38).
Summary: Lifting weights at least twice a
week may help with weight maintenance by preserving your
muscle mass, which is important to sustain a healthy
7. Be Prepared for Setbacks
Setbacks are inevitable on your weight maintenance journey.
There may be times when you give in to an unhealthy craving or
skip a workout.
However, the occasional slip up doesn’t mean you should throw
your goals out the window. Simply move on and follow through
with better choices.
It can also help to plan ahead for situations that you know
will make healthy eating challenging, such as an upcoming
vacation or holiday.
Summary: It is likely that you will
encounter a setback or two after losing weight. You can
overcome setbacks by planning ahead and getting back on track
8. Stick to Your Plan All Week Long (Even on Weekends)
One habit that often leads to weight regain is eating healthy
on weekdays and “cheating” on weekends.
This mentality often leads people to binge on junk food, which
can offset weight maintenance efforts.
If it becomes a regular habit, you could gain back more weight
than you lost in the first place (39).
Alternatively, research shows that those who follow a
consistent eating pattern all throughout the week are more
likely to sustain weight loss in the long term (40).
One study found that weekly consistency made individuals almost
twice as likely to maintain their weight within five pounds
(2.2 kg) over one year, compared to those who allowed more
flexibility on the weekends (40).
Summary: Successful weight maintenance is
easier to accomplish when you stick to your healthy eating
habits all week long, including on weekends.
9. Stay Hydrated
water is helpful for weight maintenance for a few reasons.
In one study, those who drank water before eating a meal had a
13% reduction in calorie intake, compared to participants who
didn’t drink water (41).
Summary: Drinking water regularly may
promote fullness and increase your metabolism, both important
factors in weight maintenance.
10. Get Enough Sleep
sleep significantly affects weight control.
This is partly due to the fact that inadequate sleep leads to
higher levels of ghrelin, which is known as the “hunger
hormone” because it increases appetite (47).
Furthermore, those who sleep for short periods of time are
simply tired and therefore less motivated to exercise and make
healthy food choices.
If you’re not sleeping enough, find a way to adjust your sleep
habits. Sleeping for at least seven hours a night is optimal
for weight control and overall health (49).
Summary: Sleeping for healthy lengths of
time may help with weight maintenance by keeping your energy
levels up and hormones under control.
11. Control Stress Levels
Managing stress is an important part of controlling your
In fact, high stress levels can contribute to weight regain by
increasing levels of cortisol, which is a hormone released in
response to stress (50).
Stress is also a common trigger for impulsive eating, which is
when you eat even when you’re not hungry (51).
Fortunately, there are many
things you can do to combat stress, including exercise,
yoga and meditation.
Summary: It is important to keep stress
levels under control to maintain your weight, as excess
stress may increase the risk of weight gain by stimulating
12. Find a Support System
It can be difficult to maintain your weight goals alone.
One strategy to overcome this is to find a support system that
will hold you accountable and possibly partner up with you in
your healthy lifestyle.
One of these studies examined the health behaviors of over
3,000 couples and found that when one person engaged in a
healthy habit, such as exercise, the other was more likely to
follow their example (53).
Summary: Involving a partner or spouse in
your healthy lifestyle may boost the likelihood that you will
maintain your weight loss.
13. Track Your Food Intake
Food trackers are helpful because they enhance your awareness
of how much you are really eating, since they often provide
specific information about how many calories and nutrients you
Additionally, many food-tracking tools allow you to log
exercise, so you can ensure you’re getting the amount you need
to maintain your weight.
Here are some examples of calorie
counting websites and apps.
Summary: Logging your food intake from day
to day may help you maintain your weight loss by making you
aware of how many calories and nutrients you’re eating.
14. Eat Plenty of Vegetables
For these weight control benefits, aim to consume a serving or
two of vegetables at every meal.
Summary: Vegetables are high in fiber and
low in calories. Both of these properties may be helpful for
15. Be Consistent
Consistency is key to keeping weight off.
Instead of on-and-off dieting that ends with going back to old
habits, it is best to stick with your new healthy diet and
lifestyle for good.
While adopting a new “way of life” may seem overwhelming at
first, making healthy choices will become second nature when
you get used to them.
Your healthier lifestyle will be effortless, so you’ll be able
to maintain your weight much more easily.
Summary: Maintaining weight loss is simple
when you are consistent with your new healthy habits, rather
than going back to your old lifestyle.
16. Practice Mindful Eating
eating is the practice of listening to internal appetite
cues and paying full attention during the eating process.
It involves eating slowly, without distractions, and chewing
food thoroughly so you can savor the aroma and taste of your
What’s more, those who eat mindfully may be able to maintain
their weight without counting calories (69).
Summary: Mindful eating is helpful for
weight maintenance because it helps you recognize fullness
and may prevent unhealthy behaviors that commonly lead to
17. Make Sustainable Changes to Your Lifestyle
The reason why many people fail at maintaining their weight is
because they follow unrealistic diets that are not feasible in
the long term.
They end up feeling deprived, which often leads to gaining back
more weight than they lost in the first place once they go back
to eating normally.
Maintaining weight loss comes down to making sustainable
changes to your lifestyle.
This looks different for everyone, but essentially it means not
being too restrictive, staying consistent and making healthy
choices as often as possible.
Summary: It is easier to maintain weight
loss when you make sustainable lifestyle changes, rather than
following the unrealistic rules that many weight loss diets
The Bottom Line
Diets can be restrictive and unrealistic, which often leads to
However, there are plenty of simple changes you can make to
your habits that are easy to stick with and will help you
maintain your weight loss in the long term.
Through your journey, you will realize that controlling your
weight involves much more than what you eat. Exercise, sleep
and mental health also play a role.
It is possible for weight maintenance to be effortless if you
simply adopt a new lifestyle, rather than going on and off
weight loss diets.