Why Is Weight Loss So Hard To Maintain, And How Can I Keep It Off?

Mindset // Amanda Turbill, APD, MNutr&Diet, BSc (Molecular Genetics)

Why is it that some of us seem to be able to maintain a healthy weight without (seemingly) trying, while the rest of us spend our lives yo-yo dieting with our weight going up and down? The answer? The process of weight gain and weight loss is very complicated. It involves an individual’s genetics, energy feedback systems and, most notably, the environment. Let’s unpack this!

Weight Loss and Energy Feedback 

When you begin to lose weight, your body’s energy feedback system will fight hard to defend your previous body weight. Like a thermostat which manages the temperature of a room, your body will release a cascade of chemicals and hormones in response to a drop in food intake and body weight. This is to encourage us (through hunger and pleasure drive) to resume our previous nutrition intake.

Along with this increase in hunger, our body also starts to slow its metabolism. Primarily, this is to ensure our survival, so that we don’t run out of fuel. But at a lighter weight, our metabolic needs are much less. This same energy feedback loop occurs for those who struggle to gain and maintain weight.

So as you can see weight maintenance, from a physical perspective, does have some challenges!

Let’s look at what this means for an individual who may have spent much of their adult weight at 100kg. What happens if their diet their way to their “recommended” 60kg?

Well, in order to maintain that weight, they would actually need about 25% fewer calories than a similarly matched friend who may have always weighed 60kg. This means that while they need no more than 1500 calories to maintain results (for example) their friend is able to maintain their weight at 2000 calories per day.

Now although the above example is rather simplistic, it DOES show that without conscious thought, humans as a species are prone to regaining weight. Some, more than others due to genetic factors which ‘heighten’ this response to food drive, fat storage and metabolism. 

But there are things we can do, despite our genetics, to maintain health. 

Weight Loss and Habit Building

Primarily, we can control our environment and create healthy habits.

What is a habit you may ask? A habit is defined as a tendency to behave in a certain way when faced with a similar context (environment or situation) with little exerted mental energy. It is the ‘driving home from work without really paying attention’ kind of familiarity. A process that you do so regularly that you could do it virtually with your eyes shut. From a health perspective, it would mean creating mental, physical and nutritional habits that are second nature.

We talk more about habits in this blog: How to Avoid the Yo-yo Weight Loss Mentality 

Focusing on the health benefits (rather than simply weight loss) is 100% the key to creating and maintaining healthy habits. Even if you don’t lose all the weight you had hoped, adopting regular exercise, ceasing smoking, and eating more whole foods (for example) can significantly improve your long term health outlook and the risk of chronic disease. 

When it comes to maintaining your weight and habits, consider reflecting on and celebrating what you have already achieved and what you are maintaining. This could include improved fitness, cooking skills, lower cholesterol levels, better blood pressure, better sleep. Remember, your true goal is long-term health, and in the long term, consistent, everyday habits are what will matter most. To keep these habits working for you, reflect regularly, be open to re-adjust strategies and surround yourself with people who encourage you. 

For delicious recipes, fabulous workouts or just friendship and accountability in your daily habits, head over to www.12WBT.com to join the team!

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