Wondering why keeping the pounds off after weight loss is so tough? A recent study has found moving it means you not only lose it, you keep it lost
The American television show ‘The Biggest Loser’ follows participants through an intense exercise and diet regimen for 30 weeks, in which some contestants have dropped over 45 kilos. Now a study has exposed the secrets of those that successfully keep their weight off.
The research, published in October last year in the journal Obesity focused on a group of 14 contestants six years after they competed in the show.
Six years post-TV appearance, half had regained the weight they’d lost and then some and half had maintained their losses.
Researchers concluded that the participants who did keep their weight down significantly increased their physical activity by a staggering 160 per cent compared to what they were doing before.
The largest increase in physical activity also occurred six years after their time on the show. These contestants were also taking part in high intensity exercises, combined with simply walking more, which researchers believe accounted for their ability to maintain a healthy weight.
On average, those who managed to maintain a significant weight loss had 80 minutes a day of moderate activity, like walking, or 35 minutes a day of vigorous exercise, like running.
Healthista spoke registered dietitian Azmina Govindji and leading personal trainer Jane Wake to help further explain why weight regain is common, and the ways you can ensure you keep any losses you have made, off.
Why is it so hard to keep weight off?
It’s the million dollar question and however you look at it, consistency is the key, says Azmina Govindgi. ‘If you go on a quick fix diet, they’re notorious for giving you speedy weight loss results – this can be very encouraging to start with, but it’s not the best way to ensure you keep the weight off in the long term, as it is unsustainable and can even be potentially harmful if you don’t have nutritional balance in your meals. This yo-yo dieting could be more harmful to your health in the long term.’
Drastic weight loss and lifestyle adjustments can be difficult to keep up with, especially if they happen all at once. As the weight is lost and you slowly merge back into your normal routine, your body can start to shift back to its old ways.
Many people are inconsistent in maintaining a solid exercise and proper diet regime. Trying a variety of different ‘miracle’ diets will only leave you feeling defeated and discouraged once the short lived diet ends, and the weight starts to creep back on.
This is where your diet in combination with consistent and intense, regular exercise become vital.
Maintaining a consistent diet
The study authors concluded that a huge increase in physical activity was the main reason participants were able to successfully keep weight lost from creeping back on.
While this is an important takeaway from the study results, eating more just because you’re exercise is an easy trap to fall into.
If you want to keep the weight off, Govindji urges eating mindfully. ‘Savour your food, eat slowly and eat without distraction so you are focusing on your food, and don’t eat in front of the TV.’
Focusing on a well-balanced diet complements all the hours spent at the gym, so it is equally as important to make sure you’re eating properly. This balance helps to ensure you’re covering all the bases that could affect your newly sculpted physique.
There are a variety of ways in which you can incorporate specific foods and exercises into your diet to help and further prevent weight from coming back on quickly and unexpectedly.
Why muscle matters
The study makes an important distinction that many people may not realize is the main culprit for inevitable weight regain – a disproportionate metabolism.
After significant weight loss, your body has some internal catching up of its own to do. While people may look trim and fit following a successful diet, their metabolic levels may be confused thanks to this rapid weight loss.
The underlying effects of a confused metabolism can be the key to weight regain being so inevitable.
The more muscle you have, the quicker your body is able to burn calories and break down fat. When you have a higher fat ratio to lean muscle, the body has to work harder to move in order to burn these extra calories.
This could explain why the exercisers did so well. By building more muscle from exercise, they turned their bodies into lean machines that burned calories even at rest.
‘This is why you need to do strength straining to really keep weight off,’ says Jane Wake. ‘It’s not necessarily the faster and harder the better though. You need to be able to train consistently and forever – and that’s the key – exercise needs to be for life.’
Walking works (yay!)
The study also noted that walking is the most effective way in which participants were able to keep the weight off.
Now you may be thinking this seems a bit unbelievable, when running or heavy weight lifting may seem like the obvious recommendation.
Many people are unable to run long distance or lift heavily, due to the added stress these exercises add to joints.
Walking is accessible and easy to incorporate into a busy schedule. it doesn’t ruin your outfit with sweaty smells or stains and can be done anywhere, anytime.
It’s also less time consuming since it can be completed outside of a gym and at each person’s own pace. Incorporating more walking into your daily routine, either on its own, or to supplement additional training will really help keep your weight off.
You need to be able to train consistently and forever – and that’s the key – exercise needs to be for life. – Jane Wake
High Intensity Interval Training or ‘HIIT’ is also highly effective in keeping weight down. Your heart rate is kept up while your body effectively burns more fat in a shorter amount of time.
HIIT based exercises or classes are most time efficient and, along with walking, are the most effective for busy lifestyles.
Jane Wake said ‘Personally I think the level that they set the pace on ‘The Biggest Loser, means many people will undoubtedly fail. Your personality type is key and basically as a trainer, I know that there is no one way to train multiple people.’
Figuring out which exercises work best for you, not only in terms of keeping weight off, but also keeping exercises interesting and enjoyable is important. The secret to keeping weight off for one person may not work exactly the same for another, so it is important to take the guidelines and recommendations and changing them to fit your own needs and abilities.