PREVENT KILOS FROM CREEPING BACK
Science-backed strategies that will keep you at your happy weight.
You’ve worked hard to lose weight, and you aced it. Now comes the next challenge: keeping it off. Most likely you heard about the Biggest Loser study last year that found 13 of 14 contestants had regained substantial amounts of weight within six years. Suddenly, headlines were blaring that rebound weight gain was inevitable. Here’s the thing, though: It’s simply not true.
The Biggest Loser contestants are unusual because they lost extreme amounts of weight, which is hard to maintain over the longterm. Among people who lose more modest amounts (for example, the majority of us), 60 per cent keep most of it off, according to the latest research. All it takes is some strategic diet and exercise tweaks, says Dr Caroline Apovian, an obesity specialist at Boston University School of Medicine.
First, understand how weight loss changes your body. When you lose a significant number of kilos, your body goes into “starvation mode”. Your system slows its production of leptin, a hormone that suppresses your appetite, while at the same time pumping up your levels of ghrelin, a hormone that makes you hungry, says Dr Louis J. Aronne, the director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine and New YorkPresbyterian, and the author of The Change Your Biology Diet.
The good news: You can often lose up to 10 per cent of your body weight without triggering that hormone change, Dr Aronne says. So a 68kg woman can shed around 7kg and keep them off with little to no resistance. But even if you’ve lost more than that, maintaining your new weight is doable with these science-proven techniques.
Revise your calorie count
Once you’re in maintenance mode, you can eat more each day than when you were dieting. But you can’t have too much more, because your total energy expenditure – the number of calories you burn doing things over the course of the day – has dipped disproportionately, so that a 10 per cent weight loss lowers your metabolic rate by 20 to 25 per cent.
Fortunately, there’s a way to figure out how much you can eat and still stay slim – by using the US National Institutes of Health body-weight planner (go to shape.com/ bodyweightplanner).
Plug in your “before” stats and then, when it asks for your goal weight, give your current number. It will calculate how many calories you can consume based on that information.
From there, you may need to do a little customising. See how you do at that new calorie count: Subtract a little if you find yourself gaining back weight, or add a bit if you’re ravenous, says Dr Amy Rothberg, the director of the weight-management clinic at the University of Michigan. Experiment until you find what works best for you.
Eat more plant protein
Boosting your protein intake helps you maintain muscle mass, which keeps your metabolism humming. But the kind of protein you eat makes all the difference. Fill your diet with more beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils along with animal protein.
A recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating ¾ cup of these foods daily helped people maintain weight loss by making them feel satiated. “Beans and lentils help keep your insulin levels steady, which prevents the hunger spikes that can cause overeating,” says Dr David Ludwig, a weight loss specialist at Harvard Medical School and the author of Always Hungry?
Exercise smarter, not harder
Daily workouts are crucial. You need to be more active to stay at your new weight than you did to lose kilos because your metabolism is a little slower now, Dr Aronne says. But that doesn’t mean you have to go hard every day.
An hour of moderate activity like brisk walking or recreational exercise such as riding your bike will keep the kilos off, says Dr Holly Wyatt, the associate director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. (You can do 70 minutes a day for six days a week instead, she says.) An hour may feel like a lot, but that amount is necessary to maintain because it gives you something researchers call “metabolic flexibility”. This is your body’s