Health & Wellness Articles

Maintaining a Healthy Weight - Part 1

Biological Challenges of Weight Maintenance

Page 2 of 2

For most people who are successful at weight maintenance, burning an additional 150-200 calories per day (in addition to your normal daily exercise expenditure) seems to do the trick, though you may need to experiment a little bit to find out what works for you. But—make sure you do NOT reduce your calorie intake below the maintenance level in order to get out of doing more exercise or to “be safe”. To lower your set point weight, you need to avoid restricting calorie intake below your maintenance level, and rely on additional exercise, if necessary, to keep your weight stable.
Other Metabolic Issues
There is some evidence (coming from research on rats) that regaining lost weight is often associated with a change in the normal ratio of fat and carbohydrates used as fuel during various states of rest and activity. Normally, fat is the predominant source of energy at rest and during very light activity, while glucose becomes predominant when intensity of activity increases to moderate and higher levels.
However, rats who are permitted to return to unrestricted eating after weight loss, and who regain weight, show a significant increase in the use of glucose in relation to fat during rest and light activity. If this transfers to human beings (pretty likely), it could mean that the tendency to regain lost weight could depend not only on how many total calories we eat, but also on what we eat and when we eat it.
If our bodies do shift into fat-preservation mode after weight loss, in order to promote weight regain, we might be able to partially counter this effect with dietary strategies. For example, one effect of being in fat-preservation mode is increased appetite, especially for foods high in carbohydrates. To some extent, at least, a diet that relies on multiple smaller meals and is relatively higher in protein may counteract this increase in appetite (protein and frequent smaller meals are both known to increase satiety), and also promote greater utilization of fat stores for energy. We’re not talking Atkins here—just a diet that involves keeping protein near the top of the recommended range (about 30% of total calories), carbs at about 50%, and fat at around 20%. In addition, a diet that emphasizes carbs and meals that are fairly low on the glycemic index, whole grains, beans, nuts, and other foods that are high in protein would help counteract these effects.
Finally, remember that everything you’ve heard about the negative effects of chronic stress, inadequate sleep, and poor nutrition on weight management will be potentially more significant during weight maintenance. So, do your homework and read up on these issues in the Resource Center, if you haven’t already.
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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

  • Successful maintenance of weight loss is such an important topic, and rarely given enough attention. And that's part of the reason I was so frustrated with this article. Set-point theory is misleading and inaccurate, and the stats cited about how only 5-10% of people will succeed in long-term weight loss are frankly wrong.

    I look to SparkPeople to provide up-to-date, accurate information. This was disappointing, and badly needs to be edited and updated. - 2/29/2016 9:29:19 PM
  • Kind of like knee replacement. You are out of it and it doesn't hurt but then you wake up.
    Then you go to rehab, then they bend your knee back and push down on it so the surgery alone doesn't do it Takes a lot of exercise and a lot of pain until you are well again. - 5/4/2014 2:32:33 PM
  • My husband has been a proponent of the set point theory for a long time. Having lost weight 3 different times now....:( I agree with the theory. There are definitely weights my body seems to cling to. Breaking through these set points is a lot harder now that I am older. I have been stuck at this one since last June. Increase exercise. That's the big message I got from this article. I also realize that I have a dangerous mentality: when I reach my weight loss goal, I'm done. Cross weight loss off my to do list, and move on. I suspect what he said is accurate. Losing the weight is just half the battle. - 2/20/2014 8:08:14 AM
  • I learned some great tips from this article. So glad I read it. - 9/16/2013 9:27:41 PM
  • Love the article. Haven't reach my goal yet but with info when I do I can maintain it I believe. Thanks. - 9/12/2013 5:55:30 PM
  • Great article .. Wish I had this when I lost weight before to understand why I started gaining. - 12/27/2012 9:57:19 AM
  • This is so true. I thought something was wrong w me. I have to agree - 9/3/2012 11:17:45 PM
  • I, too, found this very useful - and would also be interested in update to the research cited in the article. - 2/22/2012 8:11:39 PM
  • BPOPE20101
    I've learned that I can't wait for tomorrow or forThe Holiday's to become over, every month there is holiday and tomorrow never comes. So if I track and do what I'm to do everyday good things will happen everyday. - 12/26/2010 4:26:38 PM
  • I got this article from a recommendation on a SparkTeams forum, and it was amazing! I was trying to see if I could maintain my weight with LESS exercise and watching my diet, and that doesn't seem to be the case. Not to mention, I just feel better exercising more. Now I get it.

    :-D - 12/6/2010 9:10:02 PM
  • I will save this article also. 2 years ago I had reached my maintenance weight and kept it off until just a few months ago. Because of a lot of back and hip pain I have not been able to exercise and the cravings have come back. I have now gained back 12 pounds and continue to struggle with food. This article helps me to understand and I hope when I get back to maintenance I will know how to keep it off. - 2/21/2010 5:24:16 PM
  • EFER89
    Im struggling with maintaining my weight for the tenth time in my life. Im good at losing the weight, as Ive managed to do it once again, but Im super bad at keeping it off! This article is GREAT, still I dont know what to do as regards my food intakes!!! - 2/9/2010 1:21:13 PM
  • Excellent article. As one who has been a yo-yo dieter all of my adult life, this helps clarify the weight regain issues I've battled with. "If you were living 40,000 years ago, before agriculture, supermarkets, and fast food, you would have been one of the lucky ones whose genes made you a lot more likely to survive hard times." What were once lucky genes are now a modern metabolic hurdle. Adapt and overcome! - 10/18/2009 8:12:05 AM
  • I too had to save this article. The part about burning sugar instead of fat and craving the "not so great nutrition" foods really has hit home...I have been on maintenance for about 5 months. Some days, my cravings are almost out of control. My weight fluctuates up and down about 3 lbs. While this isn't so bad, I really feel the need for hyper vigilance. I have been at goal before and then went way up and know how hard it is to start again.. The artile explains alot. Thanks. - 5/2/2009 1:33:46 PM
  • I HAD to save this article. It is so full of good information I will need to re-read it a couple of times to make sure I fully understand it. I've had a crazy, crazy health year and I am sure my body still really doesn't know what is happening to it. Lots and lots of medical issues and they all affected my digestive system. My stomach is still wondering why it was so squished up for so long! I'll have to carefully keep on top of my intake and exercise to ensure my entire system gets back to a real state of normal. Whatever that is!!

    Thanks, Coach Dean! - 12/29/2008 1:58:48 PM

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