Health & Wellness Articles

3 Strategies to Prevent Relapse After Reaching Your Goal Weight

Winning the Mental Game

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When it comes right down to it, the “secret” to keeping the weight you’ve lost off is really very simple: Don’t stop doing the things that helped you take it off in the first place.

Obviously, you’ll need to make some small changes in your eating and exercise so that you’re achieving energy balance (to maintain weight) instead of creating a calorie deficit (to lose weight). But other than that, the key to successful weight maintenance is maintaining the healthy practices that got you to this point.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always as easy or simple as it sounds. Old habits really do die hard. If you struggled with obesity for a long time, or if you lost weight by following some diet plan that you can’t stick with safely or easily, you can’t assume it’s going to be easy to continue eating and exercising in a healthy way now that the weight’s off. Just stopping your healthy lifestyle and going back to “business as usual” will put you on the fast track back to your original weight, and maybe with a few extra pounds.

Even if you’ve taken the gradual “lifestyle change” approach advocated by SparkPeople, you’re likely to find yourself facing a new set of challenges as you shift gears into maintenance mode. Being aware of and prepared for these challenges can make it a lot easier to meet them successfully. So let’s take a look at some of the strategies and approaches of people who have lost weight and kept it off.

Strategy 1: Redefine Your Goals

The Problem: Having a goal weight provided a focus and direction for all the mental and physical energy that you put into this project. But reaching your goal weight can leave you feeling a little disoriented and unsure of what to do next—all the energy, momentum, and purpose you’ve been relying on can evaporate pretty quickly, making it easy to fall back into old habits. Simply trying to maintain your weight loss often isn’t the kind of goal it takes to avoid this problem.

The Solution: Set some challenging new goals for yourself, beyond maintaining your weight loss. Ideally, include at least one goal that requires you to stay at least as fit as you are now, or more so. For example, if your main motive for exercising was to burn calories and lose weight, try to find a sport or physical activity you enjoy for its own sake. Then you can put your efforts into getting better at that activity. My own interest in going to the gym every day for a stint on some cardio machine started to fade pretty quickly when I shifted gears from weight loss to maintenance. But when I took up hiking and biking instead, a whole new world of challenges and goals opened up. This year I’m aiming to complete my first 100-mile bike ride, and training for that gives me all the motivation I need to get out on my bike almost every day.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • I wholeheartedly agree, "Donít stop doing the things that helped you take weight off in the first place" (by now that should be your new lifestyle), and realize that "reaching your goal weight is not the end" - it's simply the continuation of the lifestyle that helped you achieve it. If new habits do not replace the old, there's no way to maintain weight loss and fitness. - 7/6/2015 3:59:55 PM
  • New habits don't replace the old ones, they're added to them. That's why nearly everyone falls back on old habits when the new ones don't seem necessary anymore. I'm one of the 95% that lost weight and gained it again, and there's no diet or lifestyle change that works in this respect. Getting the weight off asks for so much discipline, willpower and energy that after the effort, these are simply drained. Since I don't belong to the lucky 5%, and believe it's an illusion to ever enter that group, I decided to be healthy at any size I might have. I don't weigh anymore, try to stick to healthy eating and exercising and try to be not angry with myself when I fail now and then. Eversince, my weight has become stable. Above 'ideal', granted, but learning to accept what my body wants to look like. - 7/6/2015 1:34:35 AM
  • Great article! That's exactly what happened when I reached my goal weight. I lost track/steam since I lost the weight. Then, I applied a lot of these principles to my life without knowing it. I still stay active on the RNY groups on facebook and I never grow tired of hearing success stories or helping those who are just starting their journey. Thanks Sparkpeople.com you and RNY saved my life! - 5/12/2015 9:52:35 AM
  • Just what I needed to read. I am not going to gain any more of the weight I lost back! Also, FYI the third link in the list gives an error and cannot be found. Thank you for the well written blog. - 1/12/2015 11:42:34 AM
  • I agree with and practice all 3, but I've added a 4th. It may not be popular, but if I start to regain, I want to know about it quickly, not when my clothes start to get tight, That could be 10 pounds. So I weigh myself every morning. Daily fluctuations are OK. Fluctuation means a bit up and a bit down. If the trend is up, up, up, it's time to reevaluate before things get out of hand. So far so good - nearly 5 years of maintenance. - 7/14/2014 7:03:20 AM
  • I appreciate the first two suggestions the author has, but find the third to be completely unrelated to the topic. Knowing where my food comes from does not increase my chances of maintaining. In fact, I have no problem with buying off season produce from the southern hemisphere. I appreciate being able to eat asparagus in the fall and fresh apples in the spring. Furthermore, the author makes the assumption that his opinion about food industry practices is "good" and that other ways to think about it are "bad." Personally, I agree with most of what he said about the food industry, but I found it a bit "preachy" and really off topic. - 7/13/2014 5:17:26 PM
  • After decades of gaining everything back and always more, I am so worried now that I have lost big amounts of weight and the goal is getting within sight. I notice that in my countless gain-backs all it has taken was a few days of mindless eating to start the process, which is to me like an addiction. I am trying so hard to develop the strategies that will work for me. - 2/21/2014 6:17:22 AM
  • I like this article overall. However, I'm pretty sure I've read that continuing to track your consumption even after you've reached goal weight is one of the key activities of successful maintainers, and telling people that it's ok to stop tracking goes against current research on the subject. I'd like to see a response from the author on this. - 2/20/2014 4:13:52 PM
  • MANDYCAT3
    I ran across one suggestion that I hope to find very useful. One of the latter chapters of "100 Days of Weight Loss" by Linda Spangle (which is well worth having on hand, by the way) suggested planning for "crisis management." First we identify a red flag, like going over a particular weight on the scale or not fitting into a favorite pair of jeans. Then we come up with an emergency plan.

    I've chosen a scale weight as my red flag. My emergency plan will be nothing but fruits-vegetables
    -whole-grains (with quinoa for protein) until I get back out of the red zone. If I'm vigilant, the "crisis" should be over in two or three days, so I believe a restricted diet will be an acceptable response. - 12/22/2013 4:08:57 PM
  • One thing that's not mentioned in this article (which I really enjoyed reading) was that how you lose your weight can help determine your success in maintenance. I used an extreme dietary change on a couple of occasions, and the weight went almost entirely right back on. Now I am doing something that requires very simple planning with gradual changes from my old way of eating. With this style, my weight gain stopped four months ago. A little bit more in terms of modification, and it should begin to go down. And I am predicting it will be easier to maintain that loss. Glenn. - 11/28/2013 5:12:33 AM
  • I just got to goal and have been thinking about it for a long time...I know that I must be diligent and I have been educating myself and planning it for a while. I have gained and lost too many times to remember - I am not going through this again - this is the last time, so this is important information! - 8/30/2013 1:21:46 PM
  • AGNESLEE1
    Nice post. I believe that substance abuse is a major problem that needs to be addressed not only by the person suffering from addiction but by their loved ones and the community as a whole. Someone with substance abuse problem must find understanding from their significant others. They can also find a supportive community like AA meetings for alcoholics (hereís a comprehensive list of AA meetings in US: http://sober.com/
    aa-alcoholic-
    anonymous-mee
    tings.html or a helpful treatment facility, halfway houses, and sober houses for people with drug addiction(for a complete list of these facilities you can check www.sober.com). - 11/8/2012 10:50:07 PM
  • thank you for this article...every year i meet my goal and some how tinker back up the rest of the year...i will maintain my weight loses and keep it off this year! - 5/31/2012 5:14:36 PM
  • eatwild.com - 4/26/2012 11:48:46 PM
  • I love this article! It has really helped me make the switch from losing weight to maintenance. As indicated in the article, transitioning to maintenance is such a mind boggler. But again, this article is very helpful. I am so dog on thankful for SP. - 12/8/2011 9:24:41 PM

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