Health & Wellness Articles

10 Ways to Strategize for Long-Term Weight Loss

What Could Work to Keep the Weight Off Forever

So, you don't just want to lose weight, you want to lose the extra weight forever. Ta-ta. Sayonara. Good riddance. While losing weight does take focus and dedication, it's important to remember that losing weight isn't really a start-and-end process. Sure, you have a weight-loss goal to reach, but once you get there, you don't just stop eating right and working out. No way! You keep it up because it's a healthy lifestyle that's livable and lovable—and it makes you feel great.

Despite this, when you make the transition from losing weight to maintaining weight, you have a little more wiggle room in your diet and workout plan because you don't need to create a deficit of calories anymore—you just need to take in as many as your body needs in order to not gain or lose. (For more on how many calories you need, be sure to update your weight and goals regularly on SparkPeople.)

So whether you're just starting out on your weight-loss journey or if you've reached your goal weight, follow these top strategies to keep the weight off for good.

Get Moving and Stay Moving
Being active is extremely important for keeping weight off—not to mention it has a slew of other great health benefits, including helping cholesterol ratios, reducing blood pressure, improving mood and well-being, and strengthening the heart. Be sure to get active doing something you love; whether it's dancing, walking, biking, or playing sports—life is too short to do something you don't like! Shoot for at least three days of cardiovascular exercise a week and two days of resistance training. Sessions should be at least 20 to 30 minutes each (which can even be broken up into smaller segments) with your heart rate up to 60 percent to 85 percent of its max. Not sure how to figure out your training heart rate? Check out this resource that shows you how.

Multiple studies show that people who track or journal the foods they eat lose more weight and keep it off for the long haul. In fact, the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks more than 3,000 people who have lost an average of 50 pounds and kept it off successfully for five years, has found that logging foods is one way to stay on track well after they've lost the weight. In another study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, those who used a food diary while dieting lost twice as much weight as those who didn't.

Eat the Foods You Love
If you love cheesecake and chocolate but have a food plan that restricts you from eating them, chances are you're going to feel pretty darned deprived. And that's never a good thing (and typically backfires). To have a truly livable healthy lifestyle, you should include small treats (always eaten in moderation) in your diet. You can scour SparkRecipes for revamped and better-for-you versions of your not-so-healthy favorites!

Drink Enough H20
Ask any successful weight-loss maintainer and I guarantee they do one thing—drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Water helps support your metabolism, aids in removing fat from the body, can help cut cravings and is just darn good for you. So drink up!

Get Support
Whether it's a friend, family member or buddies on SparkPeople, having a support system is key. Another study that looked again at the National Weight Control Registry found that those who lost weight and continued going to bi-monthly support group meetings for a year maintained their weight. Those who didn't go to support meetings regained almost half of the weight they lost. Support doesn't have to come from a face-to-face interaction, so if you can't make it to a meeting there is hope for you too. Another study shows that online socialization and weight-loss support works, too!

Keep Challenging Yourself
Even if you're already at your goal weight, never stop setting smart goals. Whether it's adding more weight to your strength training routine, walking or running a bit faster, fitting more fruits and veggies in your diet or simply saying "no" when Aunt Myrtle tries to guilt you into having that second piece of pie, keep setting weekly, monthly and yearly goals to keep you focused and challenged. And be sure to reward yourself (go see a movie, get a pedicure, enjoy a massage, buy new workout clothes, etc.) with good stuff when you reach your goals! Rewards can sometimes be the best motivator of all.

Switch Things Up
Make a point every month to try something new. Whether it's a new exercise class, a change in your workout, a different recipe or a food you've never tried, changing things up regularly will keep things fun and engaging. After all, no one (not even those fitness nuts who love to work out) likes to eat the same meal or do the same workout day after day.

Remind Yourself
I encourage many of my personal training clients to place a photo of themselves at their heaviest or unhealthiest somewhere that they can see it. You don't have to look at it every day, but once a week it's good to remember where you were and how far you've come. Keeping a photo of your past self in your wallet also comes in handy when you're tempted to skip a scheduled workout or tempted to make an unhealthy option while dining out.

Track Your Weight
About three-quarters of all successful long-term weight-loss maintainers from the National Weight Control Registry report that they weigh themselves weekly to keep the extra pounds at bay. While sometimes the scale can be a beast of burden (especially when you're gaining muscle and losing fat), it's important that you continue to monitor and track your body to see if the weight is coming off and staying off. Whether it's the scale, measuring body fat, making sure you can fit in a certain pair of jeans or using a measuring tape, track your size regularly.

Embrace the Lifestyle
After a few weeks of eating right and working out, you shouldn't just look better. You should feel better, too! Losing weight is about improving your life, not restricting it. So be sure that you're focusing on the positive and embracing your healthy choices each day. After all, it is a choice—and you've chosen to be healthy and happy!

Are you a long-time loser or are you just beginning your weight-loss journey? How have you kept it off of or how do you plan to?

Maintaining Weight Loss, from Brigham and Women's Hospital

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Member Comments

  • Getting moving and staying moving. I have neuropathy in my feet and legs and getting moving first thing in the morning is so hard, when I get moving the pain gets to a tolerable level.
  • Journaling . . . HUGE for me. Really helps
    NEVER cut out the foods you love.
  • Posting one or more pictures of myself along the way on this journey, starting with one at my heaviest, sounds pretty cruel ... but EFFECTIVE. I think I'll do it! (Not publicly though!! At least not yet.)
  • I'm a month into the journey, and it's already slow-going according to the scale, BUT --- I do feel better, feel a bit thinner, and clothes are fitting better. PLUS, rarely am I experiencing the GERD problems, which is why I came back to SP and a new routine for healthier living!
  • JMB369
    I lost 80 pounds between 2004 and 2008. I have "maintained" most of that loss. I am now 20 pounds above my goal weight, but healthy, happy, and active at age 75! I use all these techniques except the photo of me at my highest weight. That makes me sad. I use a photo of me in a helmet, about to ride a zip line . I am at my goal weight with a huge smile on my face. That inspires me to keep at it. For me, changing it up is important, whether it's food, exercise, goals, streaks, activities. I walk, do yoga, swim and dance. Portion control is key for me. This is a great summary of techniques.
  • Nearly four years into maintenace! The article is soooo true! It takes all of the above plus diligence and perseverance. Prepare yourself for the maintence cycle as you are losing. Best wishes to all Sparkers!
    I've been maintaining my goal weight for over 6 months now.
    Exercising is a proven method of weight loss, but many people do not realize how helpful it is to have a friend or family member "buddy-up" with them when they are engaging in physical activities.
  • On Spark Coach they wanted me to start a new streak and I was trying to figure out what I'd want to do. One thing I don't find comfortable doing is riding a stationary bike, BUT when I reach a good goal in the Spring, I aim to by myself a new bicycle. So to prepare me for that gift to myself, I decided that my new streak will be riding the stationary bike for just under 10 minutes a day until I reach my spring b-day.
    From there, I'm going to set my streaks from one birthday to another. THAT might keep it interesting for me!
    Great article. I do a lot of the things included. Made some changes in my life, especially working out in the morning, very early. Two days a week I am at the gym at 5 am with a personal trainer and two days at 6 am for Xco training. I log my food, use my fitbit to log calories and steps and have seen great improvement in my health and weight. I have 30 lbs to go, can't wait to get to my goal and start maintaining my weight for the rest of my life.
    I do know this to keep your weight loss going a person must switch up their work out. what happens a person body get use to the same movements and stop burning fat calories. so a person need to shock their body into doing new moves , longer reps.
    New habits can be fun to try. At start of year, I selected 5 new habits to try for 21 days, knowing that I'd be successful on only some. I ended up with 3 powerful changes that are now routine: (1) I put sneakers on first thing In the morning - they give me spring in my step. I have them ready the night before. (2) I keep a glass of water next to the sink to grab at all times. (3) Every morning, i log my weight, food plan into SparkPeople. (It's true that 21 days of doing something makes a habit - at least for me).
  • Great article, I am the same with the water drinking, some days I will drink the water other days not, I do drink black coffee no sugar no problem. Tracking my food is really helping. I just need to keep motivated. I do a lot of walking as I have 2 dogs. Good luck everyone in reaching your goals
  • ASTRA56
    I've been maintaining my goal weight for over 6 months now. I'm embarrassed to admit it but I lost 84 pounds without any formal exercising. I just hate to exercise. lol Of course, I am more active now - I can run up the stairs without panting - but I will probably never do formal exercise. I know this won't work for everyone, but it seems to have worked for me and I have been a yo-yo dieter all my life. The one thing I continue to do faithfully, however, is journaling every day. I really believe that helps keep me in check.

About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

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