Losing weight is such a challenge. This is not new and many of us know of this. But even more of a challenge is keeping that weight off. It's discouraging for many people and often leads them back to a life of yo-yo dieting. Keeping weight off is not easy but it's possible, and studies have been done that show many people to be successful. One study, with the National Weight Control Registry established by researchers at Brown Medical School in the U.S., offers a data base of over 5000 people who have lost and successfully maintained that loss. The study has shown that success is possible and has studied habits of people who succeed.
A new study published in last week's New England Journal of Medicine casts a different light on this problem and when it was reported in the news it had many of my clients and others throwing up their hands in despair. It suggests that when you lose weight, hormones in your body may increase your appetite for up to a year, making weight regain much more likely.
There are a number of hormones that are involved in the regulation of body weight and in this small study of 50 obese or overweight people who were put on a very low calorie diet for ten weeks, researchers measured the levels of these hormones at the start of the study, the end and a year later. They found that the hormones which moderate and can boost hunger were still higher after a year, leading the authors to conclude that this may drive post-dieting weight gain.
Now, this study only looked at 50 people, which is small in research terms and the people were on a very low calorie diet which is often followed by weight regain so it is too early to draw broad conclusions. It is certainly an area of interest and one that, as the authors suggest, should be studied further.
So, for those of you who are watching your weight, rather than feeling that you are doomed to always regain what you've lost, there are some things that you can do to help with maintenance. Here are four tips:
KEEP TRACK: Once your weight is off, continue to monitor and nip any small gains in the bud. Weighing yourself regularly and keeping a food journal are both effective tools. If you see that you've gained a few pounds, go back to your successful weight loss strategies. This may mean modifying portions, or cutting some calories. Nothing drastic - just small changes to get you back on track.
EXCERCISE: Exercise will help you burn some extra calories and feel better. If you were on a program while you were losing weight, start it again. Or, just find time for a regular walk (buy a pedometer to get yourself motivated), do some yoga or tai chi, take a dance class or play a sport. Find something you enjoy and that you can keep doing.
FOOD: Feel satisfied with the food you eat. Eat more foods that are higher in fibre (fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, whole grains), with a lower glycemic index. These foods tend to be more satisfying, keeping you fuller and less likely to reach for extras. Eating lean protein (meat, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy, soy products) will also help you feel fuller.
EAT BREAKFAST: One of the consistent strategies of people in the weight control registry was eating breakfast. It sets you up for the day and is a great tool for keeping hunger at bay.