A Top Tip for Weight Loss Maintenance

By , By Holly Wyatt, MD
Losing weight is difficult—and once you do, keeping those pounds off can be even harder. No need to be discouraged, after all, it’s not impossible. Take it from someone who works with patients trying to achieve this very goal every day.
You’ve probably read in the news recently about the struggles that some “Biggest Loser” contestants faced to maintain the dramatic weight they lost during the show. Many people can relate to this struggle, even if we haven’t lost hundreds of pounds. Rather than get discouraged, it’s important to stay positive and focus on the things you can do to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off. This requires a big overall change in how you live your life. You have to learn to eat differently and to incorporate a lot of physical activity into your days. I have found that there are some small steps people can take to help you move toward your new lifestyle. 
One tip I give my patients is to incorporate low- and no-calorie beverages into a balanced diet and regular exercise regimen. I know that myths about the sweeteners these beverages contain run rampant. So to clear up this confusion, a team of researchers—including myself— conducted a year-long, randomized clinical trial to see how drinking beverages affects weight loss and maintenance. 
We recruited more than 300 overweight people who wanted to lose weight and were already drinking diet beverages at least three times a week. We then randomly assigned them to one of two groups, both of which received an identical diet and exercise regimen. One group could continue to drink diet beverages but the other was restricted to only water. The results were very promising for people who want to lose weight but have been told to give up their favorite diet beverages to achieve their goals. The good news is…you don’t have to!
Following the first 12 weeks of the study, the diet beverage drinkers lost an average of 13 pounds—four pounds more than those in the group that drank only water. Then, one year after beginning the 12-week weight-loss program, people who drank diet beverages versus water alone reported losing more weight overall, kept it off and felt less hungry. In addition, more of the diet beverage drinkers lost five percent of their total body weight and improved their blood cholesterol levels more than the other group.
The takeaway message here is that while diet beverages are not the holy grail of weight loss, you don’t need to give them up if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight—regardless of what you may read, see or hear in the media. Losing weight and keeping it off is really hard, whether or not you’re a contestant on a national television show. A lifestyle change can seem daunting but there are many small steps you can take to help move toward your new lifestyle. This summer, remember one of those small steps can include incorporating diet beverages into your routine. They can be a helpful tool to keep you on track as you enjoy fun in the sun with family and friends.