As a teen, I was driving in the car with my mom when she mused, “I would really like to lose 15 pounds.”

“I’d really like to lose 50,” I replied, in the way one says they’d really like to win the lottery. The number seemed completely and totally out of reach.

Despite being generally healthy, I had always been overweight, and losing 50 pounds seemed about as realistic as joining the Olympic figure skating team. Although I had half-heartedly dabbled in healthy eating and exercise for years, I never truly committed—and I couldn’t imagine that I ever would.

But a few years later, right before I left for college, I was getting a routine physical when my doctor gently brought up weight loss. “You know,” she said, “this is a great time to make changes. Your whole life is changing, so you can really set new patterns.”

This resonated with me. I could tap into the so-called “fresh start effect,” which says that the beginning of a new cycle (like a Monday, a new month, etc.) is the best time to start a new habit. I could use my transition into adulthood to delve into a brand-new healthy lifestyle. (Looking to conquer your weight issues? Prevention has smart answers—get 2 FREE gifts when you subscribe today.)

Taking action

kelly burch

At my doctor’s suggestion, I signed up for the Weight Watchers online system the same week that I moved into my dorm room. Tracking Points was a great way to know exactly what I was eating, although dining in the college cafeteria sometimes made it tricky. Meanwhile, I used most of my free time to visit my university’s beautiful gym.

Soon I was making little signs for the desk in my dorm room: “Goodbye 220s!” “Goodbye 210s” and finally, most exciting, “Goodbye 200s.” I was extremely proud of myself for losing weight during freshman year, a time when so many students tend to put on the “freshman 15.” I was looking and feeling great, and whenever I saw my handwritten signs I vowed to never let the scale hit those numbers again.

Over the next few years I continued my healthy habits. Although I stopped tracking Points, I wrote down what I ate in a food journal in order to keep myself accountable. I continued to tap into my newfound love of fitness, running 5ks and learning to lift heavy weights in the gym. Slowly but steadily, the pounds continued to disappear.

Three years after beginning my healthy journey, for the first time in my memory, the scale hit the 170s. I had made it. My BMI and body fat percentage were excellent, I was undeniably fit, and I had lost 50 pounds.

Little did I know that 4 years later I’d have gained all the weight back, and then some.

MORE: How To Start Walking When You Have 50+ Pounds To Lose

Undoing the progress
When I think about what went wrong, it all comes down to getting too comfortable.

I had lost 50 pounds relatively slowly, over 3 years. I did it the “right” way, avoiding fad diets or extreme measures. I truly felt that I had made healthy living my lifestyle. But after 3 years I was utterly sick of writing down everything I ate or entering calories into an app. I just wanted to eat intuitively and to implement what I had learned without such a structured system. So I stopped tracking, and that’s when the pounds started to creep back on.

At first, I told myself that my body was adjusting. In part, this was true. When I hit the 170s I had been exercising about 2 hours a day, at least 5 days a week. At the time I had no kids and a light work schedule, so this was manageable, but in the long-term it was unrealistic.

When the regain started, I was busy: I was so focused on launching my career, getting married, and setting up a house that at first I didn’t notice what was happening. I was still following a generally healthy lifestyle—eating tons of salads, fresh fish, and spinach omelets with only occasional “treats”—but I wasn’t as strict as I had been before. Getting to the gym daily was impossible, and I began grabbing an occasional drive-thru lunch between appointments (even though I once viewed fast food as completely inedible). It didn’t happen more than twice a month, but it was symbolic of the many small ways I had let my health slip.

When I hovered just below 200 pounds a year later, I told myself that that is where my body returned to naturally. When I saw 210 (about 3 years after my lightest) I spiraled into denial, not stepping on the scale for a very long time. Around that time I tried on a dress that had fit at my slimmest. When it didn’t zip, I mentioned the need for slimming underwear. “There’s no way it’s going to close,” my friend said gently.

Most of what I was eating was pretty healthy, and I was still a regular at the gym; I was even working with a personal trainer. In fact, I focused more on exercise than nutrition because working out was fun. I loved exercise but hated tracking calories, and I told myself that was fine: Although I was heavy, I was still fit.

MORE: 15 Teeny Tiny Changes To Lose Weight Faster

Back to reality
The pounds continued to pile on, and I eventually reached a point when I couldn’t deny that it was a problem. I was only 26, yet my knees and hips were aching. I was frustrated, embarrassed, and heartbroken—and I was also angry.

I have a body that requires extra work to stay lean. I cannot not just “eat healthy and exercise,” that simple phrase we hear so often that makes weight loss sound simple. For me, sustained weight loss and maintenance was always going to be intensive, hard work, and I wasn’t yet ready to accept that. I had a baby and a career and I didn’t have the time or energy to put in the effort.

When my daughter was nearly two—I was 27 at the time—I realized that I could no longer claim “baby weight.” I was about 20 pounds heavier than when I started college, which was terrifying. Somehow, I had managed to lose 50 pounds and regain 70.

I started my recommitment to weight loss by contacting a nutritionist and a new personal trainer. “You’re doing everything right,” they said. “Let’s give it a month.” But a month came and went, and despite their assurances that I would see a change, the scale did not budge.

Around that time I read about The Biggest Loser weight loss study. Doctors followed contestants from the TV show for 6 years after the cameras stopped rolling. They discovered that most of the contestants regained the weight they had lost, but through no fault of their own: Research showed that the former contestants’ resting metabolisms were drastically slower than those of their peers. Their bodies were sabotaging their efforts, fighting hard to regain the lost weight. “It is frightening and amazing,” Kevin Hall, PhD a federal researcher and expert on metabolism told the New York Times.

The study concluded that nearly anyone who loses weight will have a slower metabolism, making it harder to maintain the loss.

When I read that line, I cried. For years, I had known that I had to work extremely hard to lose even a little bit of weight. And I knew that if I wasn’t meticulous about diet and exercise that I would gain it back. But deep down I wondered if I was lying to myself or just making excuses. This study confirmed that I really do have to work harder than most people to see the same results.

As frustrating as that is, I’m now willing to give it another shot, so I’m back to tracking every bite that goes into my mouth. I’ve recently lost about 10 pounds, but I still have about 50 to lose, again. I know I’m unlikely to see the 170s, which I believe was the minimum for my large build; instead, a healthy body fat percentage and a weight in the 190s would be just fine with me. In order to achieve that I can’t get discouraged, or resentful. Just like anyone managing a chronic health condition, I need to accept my situation and work toward the best possible outcome. For me, that means tracking my food, probably forever.

At least this time, when I feel down, I can remind myself that the seemingly impossible goal of losing 50 pounds is achievable. My own story is proof of that.

Kelly Burch is a freelance writer living in New Hampshire. You can connect with her on Facebook or on Twitter @writingburch.

Kelly Burch Kelly Burch is a freelance writer and editor living in New Hampshire.

Contents

6 reasons you keep gaining back the weight you lose

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.

READ MORE: Taking 10,000 steps a day isn’t based on science. But here’s how it can help

And while this may sound discouraging, both experts said solutions are attainable, as long as you commit.

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“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.

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.

READ MORE: 8 unhealthy ways to start your morning

“If you go back to your usual diet you will likely be eating more than you need for your new metabolic rate.”

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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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WATCH BELOW: Director Kevin Smith shows off his 50+ pound weight loss

0:48 Director Kevin Smith shows off his 50+ pound weight loss Director Kevin Smith shows off his 50+ pound weight loss

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.

“Somebody who hasn’t trained in years goes to the gym and does the same thing every day.” Unless you have a plan going into your workout or switch things up on a weekly basis, your body plateaus.

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.

READ MORE: 3 things you need to do if you want to build muscle

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.”

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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.

[email protected]
Follow @ArtiPatel © 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

7 Reasons You Gained the Weight Back

If you’ve lost weight (yay!) and then regained it a few months later (ugggh), it’s important to recognize a few things.

First, you’re not alone. Regaining about half of what you shed a year later is not only common but also expected. Most people are back at their original weight 3–5 years later, according to a 2014 review.

Second, you’re not a failure. “The idea that there needs to be a constant linearity to healthy living trips people up,” says Yoni Freedhoff, MD, director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Canada and author of “The Diet Fix.” “I have been married for 15 years, and there are good times and bad times, but after the bad times, we build.” The same goes with weight loss, he adds. It will be easier and harder at times, but keep working toward it.

Third, learning from your past weight-loss experiences can help you succeed this time. “Reflection can help you fully understand what worked well and what didn’t work well,” says Katherine Nashatker, RDN, nutrition director at the Cooper Clinic. And then you can make a plan that better fits your life and goals.

Consider the following common reasons dieters don’t reach their weight-loss goals and learn how you can overcome these hurdles to be more successful next time:

1. YOU DIDN’T THINK LONG TERM

“Rather than thinking,‘Can I lose X pounds?’, ask yourself, ‘Can I lose X pounds living a life I enjoy?”

You may have heard that to lose weight, you need to think about lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes. It’s true. “The inconvenient truth is that effort is required to lose weight,” Freedhoff says. “Rather than thinking, ‘Can I lose X pounds?’, ask yourself, ‘Can I lose X pounds living a life I enjoy?’”

If you’ve reached your goal weight but staying there means you need to work out six days a week and have salad for dinner every night, chances are you’re going to regain. So, although looking back at old food diaries can help you figure out what worked for you in the past, be sure you like what worked. “If you see it as misery, it won’t be sustainable,” Freedhoff adds.

2. YOU WERE TOO RIGID

“Rather than being so black and white, embrace imperfection.”

A sliver of cake at a birthday party becomes a beer, too, and then another sliver, and then the next day you decide, ‘Heck, I’m off my diet anyway, might as well go to bottomless brunch at the greasy spoon.’ Rather than being so black and white, embrace imperfection. “There will be good times and bad times. Don’t throw in the towel. Brush yourself off and get back to it,” Freedhoff says.

Instead of thinking, ‘What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?’, ask yourself what you can do in that moment to help, he adds. Perhaps that’s taking a walk, cleaning your messy kitchen or calling your accountability buddy. Whatever it is, be sure what you choose is something concrete and achievable, that way you’ll have a small victory to build more victories off of, Freedhoff adds.

3. YOUR PLAN WASN’T SMART

“Is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely?”

Nashatker likes to use the SMART test with eating plans: Is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely? To be specific, you can’t just say, “I want to feel better” or “I want my clothes to fit well.” What does that mean? Are you aiming for a specific clothing size or weight? Really define what you are trying to achieve.

Measurable tends to be easy: Keeping a food and exercise log (see below) helps you see how you are doing and know whether you are progressing or not.

Achievable means you can realistically overcome the barriers, such as time and resources, to reach your goal weight. To help you, Nashatker recommends aligning new behaviors with existing habits. For example, if you’re trying to drink more water, set a goal to drink a big glass before your daily morning meeting. Visual cues are also great, like leaving your gym shoes and clothes out so you see them when you wake up. All of these are reminders to do your new behavior.

To be relevant, you want to think about your short- and long-term goals. Can you adopt these behaviors and keep them going for life? Will following your eating and exercise patterns lead to a better quality of life, or could it put you at risk for disease?

Last, timely means is this something you can start today? If not, what can you do today? Or perhaps it’s best to wait to dive into a new weight-loss plan, especially if you’re experiencing stress from other aspects of your life right now.

4. YOU SKIMPED ON YOUR FOOD DIARY

“An accurate diary cultivates behavior changes.”

Keeping a food journal is associated with weight loss, with one study finding that women who kept more complete food diaries lost about 4% more weight than those who were less thorough. And that’s the thing: If you use something like MyFitnessPal to track your eating, you need to be complete and accurate, Freedhoff says. That means measuring your portions and tracking as you eat rather than waiting until later to document your meals.

Keep in mind that a food diary is a tool, not something to make you feel bad, he adds. “An accurate diary cultivates behavior changes; it reminds you of the behaviors you are trying to do,” he explains. So rather than judging your choices, use them to sleuth things out. What eating pattern helps you stay fuller? Why was it easier to stick to your plan on one day versus another?

5. YOU TRIED TO BE THE NEXT “TOP CHEF”

“Too often we think we need to make gourmet meals that are beyond healthy and filled with kale and quinoa.”

It’s no surprise, cooking at home is healthier than eating out, even if someone isn’t trying to lose weight. Too often we think we need to make gourmet meals that are beyond healthy and filled with kale and quinoa. This can lead you right back to the drive-thru. Sure, aim to eat healthy, but go ahead and make meals that would make dietitians blush, Freedhoff says.

The goal is to get comfortable in the kitchen and learn cooking skills, which doesn’t happen overnight. Cook foods and meals you will like, and as you gain experience, you can start cooking healthier options, he says.

READ MORE > IS THERE SUCH THING AS HEALTHY OBESITY

6. YOU WEREN’T READY TO CHANGE

“Be sure you’re ready to commit to the hard work involved, not just the idea of being a few pounds lighter.”

“Oftentimes we like idea of losing weight. But are you ready to change?” Nashatker asks. Losing weight means new foods, changing how you spend your time, new eating patterns — all kinds of shifts. It’s a lot to ask of yourself. Be sure you’re ready to commit to the hard work involved, not just the idea of being a few pounds lighter.

7. YOU DIDN’T GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME

“Be patient and also be honest with yourself.”

“We want to see change tomorrow and think three days into a diet, where is my new pants size?” Nashatker says. Be patient and also be honest with yourself (that food diary can help). If losing weight happened overnight, you wouldn’t even be reading this.

It is infuriating to go to pull up your jeans and realize that you cannot close the button comfortably. It is doubly disappointing when this happens, and you realize that you have regained all the weight you worked so hard to lose. You want to rage and call yourself a pig. Resist that urge. Many people gain back the weight they lost. Some people gain it back because they stop paying attention to their eating and exercising habits once the weight is gone. Others took part in a dangerous diet and did serious damage to their bodies. If you want to lose the weight again and keep it off this time, you need to make it a point to lose weight in a healthy manner. You also need to seriously evaluate what worked and did not work when you lost the weight the first time. Here is what to do if you regained the weight you worked so hard to lose.

Forgive Yourself

It is disappointing and frustrating to be back at square one, especially when you worked hard to lose weight. Glaring at the jeans that do not fit anymore or bemoaning your flabby stomach will not make the extra weight go away. If it did, losing weight would be a cinch. Cursing yourself will not make the weight go away either. All it will do is leave you miserable or irritable. Neither is a good mindset for getting your motivation back. Frustrated with yourself though you may be, you have to forgive yourself if you want to lose the weight again. You have to accept that you made some mistakes, and now you need to re-lose the weight. Take a deep breath. You have proof that you can do this. You lost the weight once. You can lose it again.

Why It Came Back

You have gained your weight back. Why? Did you start ordering pizza every other night? Did you remember exactly how much you loved chocolate ice cream? Did you start justifying having that extra serving of whipped cream on your morning coffee? Did you stop going to the gym? Did you lose weight specifically for an event and then stop paying attention to your habits when it was over?
Weight does not just appear on a person. It creeps up slowly, and it has to come from somewhere. If you have gained weight back, you need to think about where that new weight came from. You cannot correct the problem until you recognize the problem. If you ate poorly, you need to swap sugar for fruits and chips for carrots. If you stopped exercising, you need to renew your gym membership. If you went on a starvation diet, you need to understand how badly you damaged your body and metabolism. An appointment with a doctor is the best bet in that case.

Evaluate Your Old Methods

If you have regained the weight you worked so hard to lose, the odds are good you want to get rid of it again. In this case, you need to think about how you lost that weight the first time. Did the pounds seem to just melt effortlessly off your body, or was each ounce a struggle to shed? This will help you know what to expect as you work to re-lose the weight.
Think about what your mental state was like when you dieted last time. Did you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day that you stuck to your plan? Did you adjust to your new routine, and after a brief drop, did your energy levels return to normal if not higher levels? This is what should happen when you lose weight in a healthy manner. You will be tired or have low energy for a short period as your body adjusts to burning more calories than you ingest. When you lose weight in a healthy manner, however, you are not running a massive calorie deficiency. Running a caloric deficit of just two or three hundred calories is more than enough to lose weight at a reasonable rate, but it should not leave you feeling run down and sluggish after you adjust.
If you lost weight at a rate of more than two pounds a week or spent your whole time dieting feeling fuzzy headed and tired, you need to change how you lose weight. Losing too much weight too quickly will send your body into starvation mode and can irreversibly damage your metabolism. This makes it almost impossible to keep your weight from creeping back up. This is a common problem with fad diets or diets that promise to help you lose ten pounds in a week by drinking special milkshakes. Losing so much weight so quickly makes the body believe that there is a famine, and you are starving. As such, your metabolism plummets as your body does everything possible to stretch the meager fuel it has to survive the famine. Your body is an incredible machine meant to keep you alive in the harshest conditions. It cannot, however, tell the difference between a sudden plague of locusts that ate all the crops and left the tribe starving and the stubborn soul who is subsisting on “craving crusher shakes” because they want to impress their crush at the pool party on Memorial Day.
As well as looking at your eating habits, you need to think about your exercise habits. While working out every day for an hour will definitely help you lose weight, it is unlikely you want to spend that much time in the gym for the rest of your life. Start a workout routine you can keep up with even after you have lost the weight. Working out three to four days a week for thirty minutes is reasonable for most people. Combine that with sustainable eating changes such as only eating sweets on special occasions and trading soda for tea, and you will be able to keep the weight off once you lose it.

Make a Plan

Once you know what went wrong and what to avoid, make a plan for losing this last round of weight. Think about what you can reasonably handle in your life, and choose a reasonable timeframe. Do not expect to be able to stick hard and fast to your plan every day. Build in some time for backsliding and for extenuating circumstances. If you have a crazy week at work, you may not get to the gym as often. If your friend’s birthday is coming up, expect to join the rest of the party in eating cake and drinking beer. Make sure your plan is a healthy plan as well. It can be tempting to lose weight quickly and then try to “fix” your metabolism later. This is not how the body works. You need to accept slower weight loss, and keep your body healthy. Eat good, natural meals instead of heavily processed foods. Drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. Share your plan in some way, whether that means talking with your spouse or writing it down and hanging it above your bed. If your plan for losing weight is just floating around inside your head, it is easy for it to be repeatedly tweaked to allow for just one more glass of wine or ordering pizza, just this once.

Prepare For Lifestyle Changes

If you want to keep the weight off once you lose it, you will likely need to make some lifestyle changes. These could be cooking more often instead of living off take-out, or getting up an hour earlier so you can go for a run before work. Make whatever changes you need to in order to continue living a healthy lifestyle even after the weight is gone. If you need to sleep in a separate room from your spouse, start the process of changing rooms as you are dieting. If you want to cook more often, get in the habit of stopping at the grocery store after work. Do not wait to make changes until after you lose the weight. While you are trying to make the lifestyle changes necessary to keep the weight off, it will start creeping back up on you, and soon, you will be right back where you started.
Gaining weight back is frustrating, but there is no reason you cannot lose it again. Make it a point to lose weight in a healthy manner, and make some lifestyle changes. Work your plan, and treat your body right. Do that, and you should fit back in those black jeans in no time.

How to Lose Weight After You’ve Gained It Back

Get motivated again—and keep the pounds off for good—with these smart and simple tips.

Have you ever reached your weight-loss goal only to find the number on the scale back up to where you started just a few years later? You’re not alone. In fact, 97 percent of dieters regain everything they lost within five years. Even people who’ve safely, gradually, and smartly dropped pounds often see at least some creep back.

The reason why so many of us struggle to keep the weight off is that maintaining—like losing—takes effort. But you can get back on track, and start losing again, with these expert tips.

Rediscover your good habits: You can’t lose weight with new, healthy habits then go back to your old ones after you’ve reached your goal, says Linda Melone, CSCS, founder of AgelessAfter50.com. If you lost weight by cutting out nighttime snacking but later return to noshing on chips while watching Jimmy Kimmel Live!, you’ll likely regain the weight. Even small habits that worked (like upping your water intake or avoiding restaurant breadbaskets) should be maintained at least most of the time for lasting success. “That’s the biggest argument against drastic measures like fasting and any diet that leaves you ravenous all the time,” says Melone. “You can’t do it forever, so you’re always better off going slow and easy, and then holding steady.”

Track your bites. Even if you’re measuring food or keeping track via an app like MyFitnessPal, you may be prone to ignoring small, seemingly harmless nibbles throughout the day. Yes, those three M&M’S® or a taste of a simmering sauce do count. “Figure that every ‘taste’ is likely to be at least 25 to 50 calories,” says Melone.

Don’t overestimate the power of exercise. Exercise is essential for losing and maintaining weight. In fact, a combination of cardio and resistance training can help you burn calories and boost your metabolism. But many of us overestimate just how many calories we really burn by working out. For example, walking for 30 minutes will burn about 170 calories—roughly half a bagel or eight Hershey’s Kisses®.

So while it’s key to stick with a fitness routine, be mindful that your workouts can’t make up for unhealthy eating habits.

Photo: Pond5

After Ashley Diamond lost 60 pounds from her 200-pound, 5’10” frame during her senior year of college, she thought she was done with dieting forever. In fact, she spent the next four years hovering around 140 pounds — even dipping to 128 pounds at one point. Then, newly engaged, she moved to Manhattan for a fancy office job and started to snack.

“If I had meetings, I’d have bagels from the breakfast tray, then sandwiches, then cookies in the afternoon,” says Diamond. “It was mindless munching.” Within the next nine months, she packed on 20 pounds. “When I got my wedding photos back, I started crying. All I could see was rolls from my arms in my strapless dress,” she says. “When you gain weight after you’ve lost it, it almost hurts more. You know what the confidence feels like. You know what it feels like to get dressed and feel good.”

RELATED: My Wedding Photos Were My Weight Loss Wake Up Call

For anyone who’s seen the numbers on the scale creep up after dropping a significant amount of weight, the statistics aren’t exactly encouraging. Studies show that most people regain the weight they lose, whether they shed it fast or slow.

And that can take a psychological toll. “Losing and regaining weight is the natural cycle of weight loss through dieting, but somehow we’re convinced it’s out fault,” explains Alexis Conason, a psychologist in private practice in Manhattan who specializes in overeating and body image. “When people regain weight, they struggle with feelings of shame, failure, low self-esteem and guilt. They think they had low motivation or didn’t have enough self-control.”

But here’s some good news: A 2014 study of nearly 3,000 people who had lost (and kept off) a minimum of 30 pounds for at least a year found that 87 percent of participants maintained at least 10 percent of that weight loss over a decade.

RELATED: How to Detox the Healthy Way: 16 Recipes You’ll Love

4 Tips for Weight Loss the Second Time Around

Getting back to your best body might require fine-tuning your eating habits and becoming more passionate about fitness. But it’s totally possible. And it will set you for success in the long run.

“You don’t get that same high from losing weight the first time. But you’re coming back to the best version of yourself.”

1. Get started, ASAP.
As soon you notice you’re slipping, take action right away. “It’s easier to lose two to three pounds than 10 pounds,” explains Linda Houtkooper, nutritional sciences professor at the University of Arizona. “You’ll stay motivated and will be more successful in getting it back off.” A report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that analyzed common traits among weight loss maintainers backs up this advice: “Preventing small regains from turning into larger relapses appears critical to recovery among successful weight losers,” it concludes.

RELATED: The 30-Second Trick That Might Stop Your Food Cravings

2. Realize that your body is different.
If you’ve got less to lose this time around, you might need to shake up your strategy. “You need fewer calories, since you’re lighter than you were when you started the first time,” says Houtkooper. When Diamond initially lost her weight, she relied on low-calorie (but less-than-healthy) staples like 100-calorie pre-packaged cookies, canned soup and diet soda. Or, she took advantage of the fact that she wasn’t working in an office to make giant salads. But the pounds didn’t fall off as easily the second time. “It was a slower process, and I had to find different tactics,” says Diamond, now 31, who’s since moved to Geneva, Switzerland and writes about living in moderation in her blog A Healthy Happier Bear. “I had to learn portion control and how to bring healthy snacks to work.” She also started training for a marathon.

RELATED: Are You Exceeding Your Daily Sugar Intake in Just One Meal?

3. Exercise to tame your hunger hormones.
You know that exercise is critical to keeping weight off — but did you know it does more than just burn calories? Some evidence suggests that frequent sweat sessions might help you regulate your appetite and help you feel more satisfied after meals. This may be particularly crucial for weight maintenance. The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends 150 to 250 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week to lose weight and more than 250 minutes a week to maintain it.

RELATED: The Body-Sculpting TRX Ab Workout

4. Aim for a sustainable goal.
Experts agree that one of the reasons people regain weight is to compensate for the deprivation they experienced during their diets. Diamond was so focused on reaching 140 pounds during her first loss that she was super strict about what she ate — even skipping olive oil on her salad. The second time: She adopted a more moderate diet, which got her to a happy 150 pounds. “I know I could be a size smaller, but I’ve been able to enjoy wine and chocolate and cheese. I’m focused on being healthy and strong,” she says. “You don’t get that same high from losing weight the first time. But you’re coming back to the best version of yourself. It may not be defined by weight, but it’s the best version of how you feel.”

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Obesity researchers have been working for decades to understand why it is so hard to maintain weight loss. The prevailing theory — proved dramatically in a study of contestants from “The Biggest Loser” reality TV show that Hall published earlier this year — is that the body’s ability to burn calories at rest, or its resting metabolism, slows down, making it easy to regain weight.

The other piece of the equation, food intake after weight loss, has been much harder to study.

That’s because people are notoriously bad at keeping track of how much they eat. One famous study found that people trying to lose weight only thought they were eating about half as much as they actually were. It’s also been hard to measure appetite experimentally with drugs. That’s because most weight loss medications work by decreasing appetite, which interferes with study results.

Hall’s team got at the question in a new way, by taking another look at data from a recent study of a new diabetes drug, Invokana. Invokana reduces blood sugar by causing the body to dump some sugar through the urine.

“Getting rid of those calories also leads to weight loss, but in a covert way,” says Scott Kahan, MD, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

“People don’t notice major changes in weight from the medication, but it’s enough that we can study what the change in weight and appetite would be,” Kahan says.

The study gave 242 people with type 2 diabetes either a daily dose of Invokana or a placebo pill. Over the course of a year, both groups lost some weight. The 89 people in the placebo group lost about 2 pounds. The 153 people who were taking Invokana lost about 7 pounds.

The puzzling thing to researchers was why the group taking the drug hadn’t lost more weight. Lab tests showed they were losing about 360 calories a day through their urine. Over time, even though the drug was subtracting a substantial number of calories each day, their weights plateaued.

The First Thing to Do If You’ve Regained the Weight You Worked So Hard to Lose

If the number on your scale is inching back up, the solution is simple: Grab a pen and paper, a digital fitness device or your favorite wellness app—and get tracking.
“You need to evaluate how everything from nutrition and exercise habits to sleep and stress levels may have changed from when you were actively working to lose weight,” says Bartolome Burguera, MD, PhD, director of obesity programs at the Cleveland Clinic and executive medical director of the National Diabetes & Obesity Research Institute. “Are you getting less sleep? Exercising three days per week instead of five?”
While tracking is often used as a way to lose weight, it’s also a great tool to identify how your habits may have changed to cause the weight regain. You can’t truly address the problem until you figure out what it is, he says. For example, if your stress levels are what’s truly behind your weight regain, adding in more exercise, isn’t going to directly address the underlying cause. What will? Learning and implementing stress-management techniques.
What might be getting in your way
Weight loss doesn’t come with start and finish dates, because once you’ve hit your goal weight and decide you’re “off” of your diet, the weight is going to come right back. “Every ‘diet’ fails by definition because diets are short-term solutions,” Burguera says. “If you cannot keep something up, whether it’s a diet or an exercise plan, it’s a waste of time.”
So, unfortunately, if you originally lost the weight through an intense training regimen, or an extremely restrictive diet, it’s likely that you are going to put some, if not all, of the weight back on. Eventually, your motivation to stick with those practices will wane. You’ll get tired of your eating plan and you won’t always have the time to devote to your workouts that you once did, says Wendy Scinta, MD, president-elect of the Obesity Medicine Association. She has seen it time and time again with her patients. Once they reach their goal weight, they loosen up on their healthy behaviors and dig into foods that previously had been on the no-fly list. The common thinking is that once they have lost the weight, the hard work is over.
According to a Columbia University study, the hard work really comes once you’ve lost the weight. Researchers found that losing as little as 10 percent of your body weight (if your starting weight is 180 pounds, that’s just 18 pounds!) significantly slows your metabolism. Meanwhile, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that following a low-calorie diet for as few as 10 weeks may affect your body’s levels of hunger-controlling hormones and increase your appetite.
Remember the longer-term plan
To figure out what changes are truly doable for you—both to lose the weight and to keep it off—take a look back at your tracker. Ideally, you used it for at least a few weeks, which allows you to get a feel for your consistent behaviors. Where is there room for improvement? What eating-exercise-sleep changes can you realistically make today that are going to still be doable after a year (or more) of repetition? What’s going to fit with your lifestyle even when you’re stressed with work and family obligations? Taking a 5 a.m. fitness class five days per week might not fit, but getting in some form of exercise every single day might. In fact, in a meta-analysis of 59 weight-loss studies, researchers found that the most effective long-term diet is the one that you feel works best for you.
“Focus on the small changes that you are able to keep long-term,” says Burguera. “The changes you make to lose the weight need to stick with you for the rest of your life.”

Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain

Tipping the scales

From time to time you may notice fluctuations in your body weight. When you think about it, you can usually find an explanation — maybe you’ve been exercising less or eating more. These types of ups and downs are normal.

The time to be concerned about weight loss or gain is when the cause isn’t readily apparent. That’s when you should see a physician.

“The good news/bad news is that most weight gain, especially as we get older, is usually not the result of medical problems, but the result of a slower metabolism, coupled with a decrease in physical activity,” says Jennifer S. Earvolino, MD, an internal medicine doctor at Rush.

“Often, what we need to do for this type of weight gain is to trick the body’s system into kick starting the metabolism, by increasing daily physical activity and by eating smaller amounts more frequently,” she says.

Seeking healthy options

When people go long periods of time between meals and then eat a large meal, a larger amount of insulin is released, which in turn promotes fat storage.

“Eating more frequently while making more healthful choices, such as eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, can make a huge difference,” says Earvolino. “Otherwise, even when we eat the same amount that we did in the past, we’ll be burning fewer of those calories per day and gain weight over the years.

And there’s no way around it; you have to increase your physical activity as your age. “Daily exercise not only burns calories, it also promotes the development of muscle mass,” Earvolino says. “Muscle burns calories more effectively than fat, so the leaner you are, the more efficiently you burn calories.”

Weight gain that comes with inactivity or age is common and usually occurs gradually, but some changes in weight can be more sudden and hard to account for. Some of the medical reasons for weight change include:

  • Thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Fluid retention from either cardiac or kidney disease
  • Emotional stressors such as depression and anxiety
  • Taking certain medications
  • Cushing’s syndrome (a rare hormonal disorder)

“If you have sudden weight gain or loss out of the blue — you can’t pinpoint the cause — you should discuss it with you physician,” says Earvolino. “There are a number of medical conditions that need to be ruled out.”

Keeping a watchful eye

“Even with weight gain that can be explained, we need to make sure that there aren’t other related problems that need to be addressed like elevated blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol, diabetes, depression or anxiety,” Earvolino says.

If you have sudden weight gain or loss out of the blue — you can’t pinpoint the cause — you should discuss it with you physician. There are a number of medical conditions that need to be ruled out.

Remember: It’s not so much about being thin as it is about being healthy. If you’re concerned about your weight, work with your doctor to develop a healthy plan for reducing fat, building muscle and strengthening our cardiovascular system.

Rush has a Nutrition and Wellness Center to help individuals achieve their fitness and health goals, including maintaining a healthy weight.

5 Reasons It’s Harder to Lose Weight With Age

Never had a problem losing or maintaining your weight before, but now the scale won’t move? There’s a scientific reason why: As we get older, our bodies don’t respond the same way to weight loss efforts.

In fact, as we age we tend to gain weight to the tune of 1 to 2 pounds per year, according to a review published in March 2013 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. That may not seem like much, but over time it can lead to significant weight gain and, in some cases, obesity, a condition marked by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

“Obesity incidence starts increasing in one’s twenties and peaks at 40 to 59, and then decreases slightly after age 60,” says Craig Primack, MD, an obesity medicine physician at the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center in Arizona.

Not everyone will become overweight as they age because body weight is highly influenced by your genetic makeup, your level of physical activity, and your food choices, Dr. Primack says. “We sometimes say genetics loads the gun and lifestyle pulls the trigger,” he says. Still, everyone will find it harder to maintain or lose weight with each passing year.

Weight Gain and Age: What the Heck Is Going On?

1. You’re Experiencing Age-Related Muscle Loss

The amount of lean muscle we have naturally begins to decline by 3 to 8 percent per decade after age 30, a process called sarcopenia, report researchers in a paper published in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. You may also lose muscle if you’re less active due to age-related health conditions, such as arthritis, or if you’ve been sidelined with, say, an injury or surgery for several days, Primack says. “All of these individually do not cause a significant decline, but cumulatively they surely do,” he says.

Why does that loss of muscle matter? Because lean muscle uses more calories than fat. So unless you’re regularly strength training with weights to maintain and build muscle, your body will need fewer calories each day. That makes weight gain likely if you continue to consume the same number of calories as you did when you were younger.

“Most people will not adjust calories,” explains Marcio Griebeler, MD, an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “They keep eating the same amount, but because they have less muscle mass to burn those calories and less activity, they end up gaining weight over time.”

2. You’re Undergoing Normal Hormonal Changes

Both men and women undergo changes in hormone levels as part of aging that help explain why, according to CDC data, middle age is prime time for putting on pounds.

For women, menopause — which occurs most often between ages 45 and 55 — causes a significant drop in estrogen that encourages extra pounds to settle around the belly, explains Dr. Griebeler. This shift in fat storage may make the weight gain more noticeable and increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

In addition, Griebeler notes, fluctuations in estrogen levels during perimenopause, the years leading up to menopause, may cause fluctuations in mood that make it more difficult to stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan. As a result, the average weight gain during the transition to menopause is about five pounds, according to UC San Diego Health.

Men, on the other hand, experience a significant drop in testosterone as they age, which begins to gradually decline around age 40 at a rate of about 1 to 2 percent per year, notes Harvard Health. Testosterone is responsible for, among other things, regulating fat distribution and muscle strength and mass. In other words, declines in it can make the body less effective at burning calories.

The pituitary gland’s production of growth hormone (GH) also declines from middle age onward, according to Harvard Health. One of GH’s many functions is to build and maintain muscle mass. So as GH decreases, it’s harder for your body to make and maintain muscle, which, in turn, also impacts how many calories you burn.

“It’s a snowball effect,” Griebeler says. “You start accumulating more fat, less lean body mass; you burn less calories, and that just keeps adding up over time.”

3. Your Metabolism Is Slower Than Before

That decrease in muscle mass is likely to slow your metabolism, a complex process that converts calories into energy. Having more fat and less muscle reduces calorie burning. What’s more, many people become less active with age, which also slows your metabolism. Age isn’t the only thing that determines your metabolic rate, however — your body size and sex play a role, too. So do certain health conditions, such as hypothyroidism.

4. You’re More Sedentary and More Stressed

By the time you’ve reached your forties and fifties, your career is likely in full swing, which while great can pose a few weight loss challenges. For one, you’re likely moving less. You may commute an hour or so to and from work, sit at a desk for eight or more hours a day, and have so much on your plate that there’s no time to go for a walk or exercise during the workday.

You may also find yourself too busy to break for lunch, increasing the odds that you’ll scarf down something from the vending machine or order in calorie-dense takeout food, notes Rachel Lustgarten, RD, nutritionist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian in New York City. And you may experience more work-related stress, which research published in the International Journal of Peptides suggested can increase the level of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you hungrier.

5. You’re Experiencing Major Lifestyle Changes

Some of the reasons for weight gain in middle age have nothing to do with what’s happening inside your body and everything to do with the way life changes as people enter their thirties. One of the biggest changes comes when you start a family. Suddenly, the hour you spent at the gym after work is spent with your toddler at home. And later, your child’s after-school time is filled with playdates, homework, and other activities that require your attention. “You do not seem to have time anymore for yourself,” Primack says. As a result, your diet and exercise intentions might slip, causing a few pounds to creep on.

Science-Backed Way to Battle the Bulge at Midlife and Beyond

Here’s what to do if you’re looking to lose weight or prevent pounds from creeping on:

  • Focus on healthy foods. In general, Griebeler says, increase your fruit and vegetable intake and decrease the amount of fast food, sugar, and other processed foods you take in. You also want to prioritize whole foods — vegetables, beans, nuts, and fruit — that are full of fill-you-up fiber, says Lustgarten. “It will make it easier to control calories as these are high-volume foods — they take up more room in the stomach — while contributing less calories to your daily intake,” she explains.
  • Downsize your portions. Learning to adjust your diet to your body’s lower calorie needs is a gradual process. Griebeler suggests that you start by trimming 100 to 200 calories from your daily diet and adjust as needed from there. You’d be surprised to see what a big difference such a small change can make.
  • Stay well hydrated. It’s easy to confuse the sensation of thirst for hunger. Staying hydrated with water (rather than with calorie-rich beverages, such as sodas and fruit juices) also ramps up metabolism, increasing the breakdown of fat, suggests a review of several animal studies published in June 10, 2016, in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.
  • Chill out. For many people, stress leads to stress eating, Griebeler says. Do what you need to do to relax, whether it’s with a twice-weekly yoga class or short five-minute meditations throughout the day.
  • Give your major muscle groups a workout. That loss of muscle mass you read about earlier? Fight back by adding strength training to your exercise routine. “You want to preserve muscle mass as much as possible,” Griebeler says. “With more muscle, you burn calories more efficiently and you’re going to be more active because you have better balance and you have more stamina.” A good place to start is with the National Institute on Aging’s easy at-home strengthening Go4Life exercise program.
  • Move more. Try to incorporate a half hour a day of aerobic exercise — which is anything that gets your heart rate up, such as jogging, walking, biking, or swimming — into each day, advises Lustgarten. Can’t find the time to fit in 30 minutes all at once? Break it up by doing, say, three brisk 10-minute walks, throughout the day. “Short bursts of activity have a cumulative effect and count toward a daily exercise goal,” she says.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. If you don’t wake up feeling energized, you’ll be less active during the day and will burn fewer calories as a result. Primack says to try to log somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.

You lost weight but then gained it right back. Here are 5 reasons why. | Raleigh News & Observer

No one ever says, “I want to lose 30 pounds, keep it off briefly, then gain it all back, with some extra pounds for good measure.” But that’s exactly what happens to most people who lose weight. How do good intentions – and the investment of time and effort needed to lose weight in the first place – unravel?

1 We look for the fast track. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is dieting. Most traditional weight-loss plans call for adopting new food and exercise behaviors that you aren’t able to – or won’t want to – maintain for life. It’s about doing whatever it takes to lose weight, with weight maintenance taking on a nebulous “I’ll worry about that later” quality.

Unfortunately, we humans are wired to seek instant gratification. I see this in patients all the time. Even though they’ve already tried a dozen diets, none resulting in lasting weight loss, they are still willing to severely restrict calories and cut out entire food groups if it will help them lose weight. I remind them that if they make changes they can’t sustain, they may lose weight initially, but it will come right back. It’s better to take the time to improve food quality and learn to adjust to hunger and fullness cues.

Always ask yourself, “Will I be happy eating this way or exercising this much for the rest of my life?”

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2 We see a weight goal as the finish line. Even among those who choose to make satisfying, sustainable changes to their nutrition and exercise habits, long-term adherence doesn’t always happen. Why? One danger is treating your weight goal as a finish line. Once you’ve crossed the line, the “diet” is over, a mindset that sets the stage for regain. This is amplified by the fact that the body adjusts its metabolism as weight drops – particularly in people who lose a lot of weight. The truth is that the effort required to maintain new habits never ends.

A better approach is to set goals around things that you actually have control over, such as consistently exercising five times a week or eating four cups of vegetables each day, and let weight loss be the outcome.

Identify your triggers to overeat – stress, fatigue, being overly hungry – and build strategies to deal with them rather than relying on willpower. For example, plan a nutritious afternoon snack, keep tempting foods out of sight and so on. If you have a tendency to eat for emotional reasons, it’s critical to develop non-food ways to comfort yourself.

3 We diet for the wrong reasons. Another challenge is that the initial motivators for weight loss – health concerns, an upcoming class reunion, a tropical vacation – often fade. Compliments on your changing appearance and the need to buy smaller pants can keep the motivational fires burning, but what happens when the number on the scale stops moving? Waiting for fresh motivation to strike can cause you to slip back into old habits, but being open to new ways to eat well and stay active can help keep you action-oriented.

4 We have unrealistic expectations. How well our expectations match reality can also affect motivation – and the odds of successful weight maintenance. People who are disappointed by how much weight they lost are more likely to regain. So are people who expect that losing weight will make them happier. The truth is that people of all shapes and sizes struggle with body image, relationships and job satisfaction.

5 We aren’t flexible. It’s also important to expect – and prepare for – life’s inevitable curveballs. People who think in all-or-nothing terms tend to be less adaptable to change and more likely to revert to old habits. This leads to deciding “anything goes” on vacation, skipping exercise if weather or other circumstances pre-empt your normal routine and abandoning healthy eating when life becomes “too busy.”

Part of treating health and wellness as a journey includes always having a plan B and being ready to course-correct immediately when life briefly knocks you off track.

17 Reasons Why You’re Gaining Weight Back After Losing It

Trying to slim down can be similar to bouncing on a trampoline. The harder we jump down, the higher our weight infuriatingly shoots right back up. It’s not just hard on your wallet (buying new pants all the time isn’t cheap!), but it can also be hard on your health, from increasing muscle loss to attacking your immune system. Regaining lost weight, also known as weight cycling, is a common occurrence for 75 percent of people who attempt to shrink their waistlines—just look at the participants of the show, The Biggest Loser.

In a 2016 study about the show, published in the journal Obesity, researchers followed 14 contestants for six years following the 2009 season. They were shocked to see that nearly all of the contestants (13 out of the 14) regained weight after the competition ended. And four contestants were actually heavier after the show than before they started their weight-loss journey. For some, that’s gaining weight of over 100 pounds!

You probably already guessed there’s more behind the added flab on your frame than just calories-in-calories-out and that simply moving more and eating less may not help you slim back down.

Instead, you’ll need to pinpoint the precise reasons behind your weight gain so you can reverse the damage.

To help you out, we’ve outlined the most common reasons you’re gaining weight back, along with ways to fight back against each. You may be surprised to learn which seemingly innocuous habits are making the scale tip further away from your goal weight! And to find expert-recommended tips to escape that weight loss game of tug-o-war, check out these ways to lose weight forever.

1

You Eat As Much As You Did Pre-Weight-Loss

Congrats, you did it! You made it to your goal weight. But just because you dropped the pounds doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you did before your weight loss. In fact, you may have to eat even less to keep the scale tipped in your favor.

Why? Well, your body needs less fuel at its new weight. That’s because when you lose a significant amount of weight, your metabolism actually slows down because of a mechanism known as “metabolic adaptation.”

Our bodies have evolved to store fat and become accustomed to the weight you’ve gained. So when you try to lose it, your body’s metabolism switches to survival mode and decreases the amount of calories it burns on a daily basis—and stays like that for about a year.

At the same time, research published in the journal PLOS One found that dieters’ levels of leptin, the satiety hormone that tells your body when you’ve had your fill, actually drop after weight loss, leaving you feeling constantly ravished.

Counter It:

Know that your first year keeping the weight off is most likely to be the toughest and the time you’ll have to be the most diligent. Maintain an eating schedule so you don’t indulge in random office snacks your co-workers brought in. And to beat those menacing low leptin levels, read up on how to feel full while eating less.

2

You’re Super Tense

If your crazy-busy life has left you feeling worn down and stressed, that could be the reason you’re starting to look a bit mushy in the middle. Cortisol, the stress hormone that’s released when we’re under pressure, causes the body to metabolize food more slowly. To make matters worse, the types of food we crave when we’re tense tend to be fat and sugar-laden, say University of California researchers. As a result, this diet-derailing combination can kill your hard-earned weight loss wins. The combination of high-cal cravings and a stress-induced snail-paced metabolic rate can result in significant weight gain.

To stay cool as a cucumber and keep those pesky pounds at bay, give a few different stress management tactics a try, suggests Lori Zanini, RD, CDE.

Practicing yoga, going for a run, meeting up with friends, and unplugging from technology for an evening are all things Zanini says are worth a shot. Research even shows that smiling and laughing can help diminish levels of stress hormones. See what works best for you, and set aside time to decompress a few times per week.

3

You Didn’t Renew Your Gym Membership

While eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important aspect of any weight maintenance plan, sticking to an exercise program after you’ve reached your goal may be the key to keeping the pounds off long-term according to University of Alabama researchers. The study team noticed that participants who stopped breaking a sweat after losing weight experienced a dip in their metabolism while those who continued to work out for 40 minutes three times a week continued to fry calories at the same rate.

Whatever you enjoy—running, lifting, doing yoga or Crossfitting—just keep your heart pumping. Doing so will help you burn off the occasional beer or cheat meal of a slice of pizza and keep that pesky flab from sneaking back onto your stomach.

RELATED: Learn how to fire up your metabolism and lose weight the smart way.

4

You’re Committed to Your Fitness Class

So while working out is critical for maintaining your metabolism, if you haven’t switched up your workout routine recently, your six-pack might easily melt into a barely-there two-pack, says Dr. Sean M. Wells, personal trainer and author of Double-Crossed: A Review of the Most Extreme Exercise Program. “If you’ve been doing the same workout for the past few months, your body isn’t being challenged anymore, meaning it’s not burning as many calories as it otherwise could,” he explains.

If you typically stick to spin classes, consider checking out a boot camp or Zumba class to give your metabolism a kick. Can’t bear to leave your Schwinn? Look for a more intense class or challenge yourself by turning up the resistance (yes, even when the instructor doesn’t tell you to). Switching up your exercise routine is one of the ways to overcome a weight-loss plateau.

5

You’re Skimping on Shuteye

You may already know that when you’re exhausted your metabolism slows, but did you realize that losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep can up the odds the scale will stop tipping in your favor? In a recent study, researchers analyzed more than 500 participants’ weekday sleep diaries and found that losing a mere 30 minutes of shut-eye increased their risk of obesity by 17 percent!

Even mild sleep deprivation causes ghrelin—the hunger-stimulating hormone–to go into overdrive while simultaneously reducing levels of leptin–the hormone that suppresses appetite. In turn, this stimulates hunger even when you’re full which can lead to overeating and weight gain.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests logging a solid seven to nine hours of shuteye each night. If you want to get back to your more slender self, cut your nightly Netflix session short and make sure to get a solid night’s sleep. Plus, mastering your bedtime routine could help your slim-down efforts.

6

Your Meals Are Microwavable

These tantalizing frozen options are marketed as nutritious and convenient, so we can’t say we blame you for grabbing one off the shelf. The issue is this, though: many of them are healthy-eating, pound-dropping enemies in disguise. Just because they’re touted as portion controlled and low calorie, doesn’t mean you should stock up on these.

Like most ultra-processed foods, many frozen entrees from diet programs pack a surprising amount of health-harming sugar—7 grams! Not only that, but the 40 plus ingredient list is just completely unnecessary, and makes it more likely you’ll be filled up with inflammation-causing, processed additives.

So many diets rely on pre-portioned microwave meals, but these additive-laden frankenfoods— along with other processed goods—account for 90 percent of the added sugar we unknowingly consume each day.

Just cook at home to banish these added sugars as well as to cut calorie consumption by an average of 200 calories a day, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. And watch out for these sneaky sources of added sugar.

7

You Reward Yourself the Wrong Way

If you’ve recently shed a ton of weight, you should absolutely celebrate your success! But if your celebrations involve big portions of your favorite, fat- and sugar-laden treats, odds are good that’s the reason you’ve gained back some of the weight.

Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based Registered Dietitian, suggests making a concerted effort to not use food as a reward. “Often times I see my patients reward weight loss by indulging in foods they know aren’t the best for their goals. Instead, I suggest using things like manicures and SoulCycle classes as a reward for all their hard work,” she notes. When you eat junk food during times of emotional eating, it “will only contribute to weight gain and lead to unhealthy yo-yo dieting.”

8

You Stopped Paying Attention to Protein

After hitting your goal weight, some regimented dietary habits are bound to fall by the wayside. And, if eating adequate amounts of protein is one of them, it may be the reason the weight is starting to sneak back on. While getting enough of the nutrient can keep your muscle from breaking down, not getting enough can slow your metabolic rate. Just maintaining muscle mass helps to burn calories faster, so your body will then turn to torching unwanted fat. Without muscle, you’ll be more susceptible to unwanted weight gain.

Protein needs differ by individual. However, for many people, consuming 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day should be sufficient enough to help maintain your weight loss.

For a 130-pound person, that would equal to between 46 and 58 grams of protein. Good sources of the nutrient include low-fat dairy, beans, chicken, fish, lean cuts of beef, pork, and quinoa. These high-protein snacks can also help you fit more of the nutrient into your diet.

9

You Started a New Rx

If you were prescribed a new medication and subsequently noticed a few of those hard-lost pounds creeping back on, your Rx may be to blame. Antidepressants, birth control pills, beta-blockers, anti-seizure and migraine meds, steroids and rheumatoid arthritis treatments can all affect appetite, metabolism, and weight. That doesn’t mean you should take yourself off the drug, though.

Confirm with your doc that the medication is indeed the culprit, and discuss what other treatments are available. Your doctors might be able to prescribe a different medication that doesn’t carry the same belly-bulging side effects.

10

You Frequent Happy Hours

It’s completely normal to want to blow off some steam with your co-workers after a long day at the office. But while drinking in moderation every so often won’t do too much harm to your waistline, making it a habit can slow down your metabolic rate.

Why? Because your body registers alcohol as being toxic, your body preferentially breaks down your cocktail before any food that you’ve already eaten that’s waiting to be digested. This slows down the entire metabolic process. In fact, University of California at Berkeley researchers claim boozing can decrease the body’s fat-burning ability by up to 73 percent!

On the occasions that you decided to indulge, stick to low-calorie drinks. Alternate your alcohol with water to slow your pace, and cut yourself off after two drinks.

11

You Have Poor Gut Health

Years of unhealthy eating can knock your digestive system so out of whack, it could be blunting your weight-loss efforts. That’s because the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut play a critical role in your health, controlling everything from protecting you from colds to keeping you happy. But most importantly, these bugs have a huge influence over your hunger hormones and weight. So when the bad bugs stay in control, it puts you at risk of uncontrollable hunger surges and unwelcome weight gain.

Just because you’ve lost the weight doesn’t mean you will automatically have a cleaner, healthier gut. To mend your tummy, cut out the bad-bug-feeding sugars from your diet, and load up on sources of both prebiotics and probiotics.

Prebiotics are a source of food for the good guys in your gut to help them build strength, and probiotics act as reinforcements, helping to drive out the bad guys. Good sources of prebiotics are legumes, onions, artichokes, spinach, and oats, and probiotics can be found in fermented foods as well as yogurt.

12

You’re Suffering from Chronic Inflammation

Whether it’s because of seasonal allergies, hidden food allergens, or eating way too many of these inflammation-inducing foods, chronic inflammation can be a dieter’s worse nightmare. Even though inflammation is a natural defense response your body uses to target and get rid of potentially-harmful invaders, when your immune system runs haywire, it can be bad for your weight.

That’s because when your body is constantly under attack, levels of inflammatory biomarkers build up and either circulate through your blood or are stored in fat cells—and specifically, belly fat cells, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

So even though you’ve lost weight, if you’ve only lost subcutaneous fat, and not belly fat, researchers hypothesize that your belly fat may still be releasing these inflammatory biochemicals, which will continue to worsen inflammation, cause weight gain, and force an increase in fatty acids in your bloodstream.

Bottom line: it drives your body into a waist-widening downward spiral.

Avoid foods full of saturated fats and fructose, as these two things have been associated with direct abdominal fat gain, and talk to a food allergist to see if anything you’re eating may be worsening your inflammation. And most importantly, try these ways to lose your belly in 14 days.

13

You Avoid the Scale

After months of daily weigh-ins, grueling workouts and adhering to a strict diet, you finally hit your goal weight. But now, just two months later, your skinny jeans are starting to feel a tad tight and you’re not sure why. If you’re like the majority of dieters, you’re still eating well and exercising, but you stopped stepping on the scale—a major no-no. Although the number on the scale isn’t the only way to judge your continued success, research shows that those who avoid the ritual tend to pack on more weight than those who don’t, according to a British Journal of Health Psychology study.

There’s no need to be a slave to your scale; checking in once a week should do the trick. And here’s a tip: Since weight naturally fluctuates throughout the week, researchers say that Wednesday weigh-ins are the most accurate.

14

You Opt for Coffee Over Green Tea

You probably think you need your skinny, double shot latte to wake you up in the morning and give you the extra boost to get through the workday—but if you always opt for coffee over tea, you could be missing out of some major metabolism-boosting effects. And that’s super important after weight loss, as your metabolism can slow down drastically.

In a Journal of Nutrition study, participants who added a daily habit of drinking 4 to 5 cups of green tea to their 25-minute workout routine lost an average of two more pounds and more belly fat than the non-tea drinkers.

How does it work? The brew contains catechins, a type of antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from fat cells and helps speed the liver’s capacity for turning fat into energy, which will help rev up your metabolism so you can continue to look bikini-ready.

Start sipping the green brew for a slimmer, more efficient calorie-burning you. We like the Lipton and Yogi varieties of green tea, but you can also reap the benefits from a powdered matcha.

15

You Sit All Day

Many of us are spending prolonged periods of time sitting, either at our desks or while we binge-watch Netflix. And experts are saying this can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as early death—regardless of whether you still carve out time to exercise. In fact, a report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that those who concentrate their workouts into a single session and spend the rest of the day sitting are susceptible to the same negative health risks as those who don’t work out at all, including regaining all that hard-lost weight.

According to experts, when you sit all day at your desk, the bulging biceps and washboard abs you worked so hard to build at the gym begin to break down. This slows your resting metabolism and can make it harder to maintain your weight loss goals.

You don’t have to give your two weeks notice to your goal weight. Simply getting up from your chair and taking a two-minute walk once every half an hour can do the trick, according to studies published in the journals Diabetes Care and BMJ.

When middle-aged overweight and obese adults interrupted sitting time with short bouts of walking every 30 minutes, they lowered self-reported fatigue, minimized spikes in blood-sugar, and lowered insulin levels after eating meals, which translates to keeping your hunger pangs at bay and helping you scorch more fat! Set your phone alarm so you don’t forget to take a break.

16

You Continue to Cut Carbs

It may have worked to drop water weight and melt away the pounds at first, but completely slashing your carbohydrate intake will leave you with some not-so-pleasant side effects that can make it hard to go about your daily routine, like exhaustion, irritability, and lethargy—all emotions which have also been connected with overeating. “Carbs are essential as our brain and require them continuously to work properly,” says trainer and RD, Tim McComsey. Restricting carbs completely will cause any newly-added, fat-burning muscle mass to be metabolized for energy, rather than carbs.

So as long as you keep carbs to a reasonable percentage of your daily calories, and choose the right ones, these starches don’t have to hit the curb.

17

You Skip Breakfast

Your morning munchies will boost your brainpower, banish cravings, maintain weight loss, and ramp up your muscle gains—but only if you eat them. Eschewing the most important meal of the day may save you calories in the morning, but come lunch time, you’re more apt to overeat to compensate for a rumbling tummy. Plus, statistics gathered by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which has collected over twenty years of data on dieters who lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year discovered that 78 percent of those dieters eat breakfast every day.

It might be one of the easiest meals to prepare, but deciding what dish works best for you can be hard. That is, if you haven’t read our exclusive report, how to choose the best breakfast for you.

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Gaining and losing weight

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