There’s no such thing as a typical weight loss journey, but often, people fall into the same trap: they quickly start to gain the weight they fought so hard to lose.
This is common, said Sergio Pedemonte, trainer and co-owner of Your House Fitness in Toronto, and often happens when people fall back into their everyday routines.
Registered dietitian Desiree Nielsen, based in Vancouver, added that some studies have shown only 20 per cent of people are able to maintain their new weight after a year of weight loss. “Another suggests that people will regain 70 per cent of their weight lost within two years,” she told Global News.
And while this may sound discouraging, both experts said solutions are attainable, as long as you commit.
“Diet is a large part of maintaining weight; however, I do find in my practice that exercise is critical,” she added. “It may not be about the total calories burned in exercise, which are a lot fewer than people realize. Instead, exercise helps build lean muscle mass which is critical for supporting a healthy weight as we age.”
Neilsen added if you do find yourself in this weight-gain situtation, don’t focus on the number on the scale.
“It’s important to explore where your happy balance lies, between a number on the scale and reaching a weight that is easy to maintain while feeling happy and energized.”
Below, Nielsen and Pedemonte dig into common reasons why so many of us gain back the weight we lose.
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The way you lost weight wasn’t sustainable
Yes, you’ve lost the weight, but you weren’t thinking long-term. “If you go on a strict low-carb diet and work out six days per week, but you can’t keep that up for life, you are likely to gain some if not all of the weight back,” she said.
Drastic changes in your energy expenditure is thought to create a decrease in metabolic rate, she added, which will persist once you’ve reached the weight you want.
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“If you go back to your usual diet you will likely be eating more than you need for your new metabolic rate.”
You don’t know how to make time for a workout
We all get busy, Pedemonte said, but unless you are committing to workouts a week in advance, you’ll run into barriers along the way. “People don’t know how to fit in an hour per day in their schedule to work out,” he explained. “We’re always too busy with work or with our family life. By the time we get home, there is no inspiration.”
Working around this isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible. Plan ahead as much as you can. Schedule in morning or evening workouts, just like you would schedule in any event.
You had too many restrictions
“When you go on a fad or crash diet, the act of severe food restriction leads to hunger and fatigue that can increase impulsivity, which leads to binge eating in some people,” Nielsen said.
Fad diets also have language that create negative relationships with food, often demonizing it. We’re told carbs, gluten and diary are all bad, for example. This makes it harder for you to add those foods to a healthy, balanced diet.
“Dieting may create a food preoccupation that grows until it becomes overwhelming and the dieter succumbs to not just one piece of cake but a half a cake. It’s a cycle of restriction-anxiety-binge-shame that many people live for years.”
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People are unprepared
When someone joins a specialized gym or gets a personal trainer, it’s simple to stick to a routine. But Pedemonte said when people are left on their own, they often don’t know how to work out when they get to the gym.
He recommended switching things up as much as possible — do a variation of running, swimming, boxing, HIIT classes or anything else to keep your body in “shock.”
You focus too much on calories
“Because we have heard for years that weight loss is simply calories in and calories out, we may focus on a certain calorie level at the expense of the quality of food we consume,” Nielsen said.
This becomes an issue because 1,200 calories of low fat cookies, rice or frozen dinners isn’t as filling as 1,200 calories of vegetables, protein, raw nuts or fruit.
“If we’re constantly hungry during our weight loss attempt, it won’t be nearly as easy to maintain. In addition, fuelling your body properly helps you regulate your energy levels and appetite, making the task of weight loss easier.”
You can’t recognize why you’re gaining weight
Both experts agreed if you’ve lost weight and gain it back, it’s important to figure out the cause. Pedemonte said this has a lot to do with our diets — most people don’t know what healthy portions look like, especially if they’re coming out of a restricted eating routine.
Speak with a professional, keep a food log and keep track of your lifestyle changes following weight loss.