When fat strikes back
You worked hard to lose weight; now for the tough bit – keeping it off. Here’s our guide to the trickiest kilogain traps and how to swerve them
Lose weight (and keep it off!) with science-backed advice that works
Finally. You made it to your goal weight. The hard work is over. Isn’t it? Nope. Not based on research published in the American Journal of Physiology-endocrinology and
Metabolism, which found we’re hungrier and have a stronger desire to eat for a year or more after significant weight loss.
It’s not you, it’s science. Despite your best efforts to eat more kale and fewer Krispy Kremes, your body actually wants to go back to its “set point weight” – the one it thinks is correct for you – and will try very hard to push you back there. The good news? You can stay at the size you love with these strategies.
Your guns have gone AWOL
Here’s why: A study by the University of Copenhagen found 20-somethings lose 30 per cent of their muscle strength after just two weeks of not training. Yikes!
Do it now: You only need three to five resistance sessions a week to maintain muscle mass – but there’s a caveat. Those muscles of yours must also be continually challenged, so up your weights. According to the late legendary strength and conditioning trainer Charles Poliquin, “Your free weights should be between 65 and 80 per cent of the maximum you can lift – so if you can lift 23kg once, use at least 16kg for rep work.”
Stay-slim tip: A trimmer bod is also made in the bedroom. “Sleep directly affects our appetite and hunger regulation, and a constant lack of sleep leads to increased levels of cortisol [known to increase belly fat] being produced by the body,” says trainer Sam Wood.
Cutting kilojoules isn’t working
Here’s why: Remember that “set point” weight? Slashing too many kjs puts your body into starvation mode, which sends its desire to cling onto your love handles into overdrive. Biology is a bitch sometimes.
Do it now: Cut 1250 kilojoules off your daily 8700 allowance. That’s the scientifically proven amount to sustainably lose weight. It’s more easily done with diet than exercise – 1250kj is equal to a large latte, but a 70kg woman would have to run flat out for 30 minutes to burn the equivalent kilojoules. “If you ditch just a bit of the [less nutritious] stuff, you won’t be hungrier for it,” explains nutritionist Sarah Wilson. See ya, Starbucks.
Stay-slim tip: Give yourself a new set of boundaries that work for you, and your body. Ensure your kilo count stays within a 2kg radius (fact: we can fluctuate by 2kg a week) of your happy weight and if it gets too low, or too high, you know to start adjusting the kilojoules. Simple!
Your appetite’s in overdrive
Here’s why: Your brain likes you having some body fat – it acts as insulation, is essential for ovulation and fertility, and regulates your appetite. Lowering your body fat level also decreases your leptin (a hormone that keeps appetite in check) levels, meaning as you drop kilos your brain gets signalled to eat more to bring your weight back up. Hey, 11am banana bread cravings you can’t ignore. This response can last for up to a year, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine reports.
Do it now: Plan a cheat meal (note: not day) once a week. “Enjoying a small cheat meal each week helps proactively channel the need for indulgence and to stay motivated,” says celebrity personal trainer James Duigan.
Stay-slim tip: Wilson recommends keeping your carb and sugar levels down in the build-up to your cheat meal. Focus on protein and veg throughout the rest of the day to regulate your hunger-fuelling, fat-making insulin levels.