Losing significant weight feels great in the moment. For people who have lost weight and gained it back, we want to give you the resources you need in order to keep the fat off for good. Weight loss may not be sustainable if you are not focused on the right things.
Social media celebrates rapid weight loss as if you are not doing it correctly if you are not losing weight fast. Before and after posts allude to changing as a person, when in reality, it’s the same person in both photos.
Being proud of weight loss is okay, but it is important to make sure that your lifestyle is healthy and sustainable so that the weight can be kept off.
What happened to The Biggest Loser contestants?
The Biggest Loser was a famous television show surrounding rapid weight loss with extreme exercise and extreme caloric restriction with no mention of the mental aspect of losing weight. The psychological damage from shaming that happened during the show had lasting effects.
Most contestants on the television show lost over 100 pounds. Within a year of being on the show, the average weight regained was 92 pounds. Five years later, contestants were (on average) 53 pounds heavier than when they started the show. Obviously the contestants did not think that they would end up gaining the weight back, much less gaining more weight than what they started with.
Over 95 percent of the hundreds of contestants gained the weight back.
Should I lose weight slowly?
When weight is lost quickly, body composition does not always shift. Body composition deals with fat, muscle, bones and water. If you aim for long-term weight loss, the rate at which weight is lost dictates how the composition tends to end up in the first few months of the weight loss journey. Losing weight slowly is most effective because it is done in a way that is more sustainable.
In a study, 42 people were split into two groups. One group was the rapid weight loss group and the other group the slow weight loss group. The rapid weight loss group lost five percent of their total body weight in five weeks. The slow weight loss group lost five percent of their total body weight in 15 weeks. Both groups saw similar changes to blood biometrics.
The slow weight loss group saw greater decreases in waist and hip measurements along with greater fat reduction (both in pounds and overall percentage). These results show that the slow weight loss group was losing the deep visceral fat (around the abdomen).
The bottom line: in order to be successful for the rest of your life, slow and steady weight loss is key.
What is a main reason for weight gain?
When dealing with uncomfortable emotions throughout the weight loss journey, people tend to turn to food. One of the biggest reasons for weight gain is using food as a coping mechanism. At the end of the day when people are exhausted, all they want to do is eat and nourish, to the point of bingeing.
Emotional eating can take place when people are tired, sad, lonely or stressed and they look to food for comfort. For someone who is in the process of losing weight and they experience stress, they tend to experience fight or flight syndrome because the body is in survival mode. Because of this, people tend to naturally gravitate towards quick carbohydrates, sugar, and comfort foods from your background (pizza, chips, etc.). These items provide the body with what it is looking for in survival mode, producing a calming effect.
How do you cope?
Creating new coping skills is important because there will always be stress in life. There is a window of tolerance where people are able to handle stress and feel stable. Above and below the window of tolerance are areas where we think we are handling stress well, but we are actually using coping mechanisms (often food) to feel stable.
Figuring out ways to cope outside of food is key to avoiding this situation.
People tend to do well for the first few months of the weight loss journey, but at month three, there is a hormonal shift causing hunger and the brain is less satisfied. Combining this shift with stress causes people to turn to the pantry for comfort. This often causes weight regain.
Sadness, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and other stress-related struggles are common triggers for weight regain. Breathwork and meditation can help calm the difficult emotions before food is involved. Talk therapy can help people work through the emotions and stressors that often cause them to turn to food.
Should I go on a diet?
Once the diet is over, weight regain happens. When health is a lifestyle, sustainability happens. Approaching weight loss from the perspective that it will be a new lifestyle is key. Health as a motivator is typically more sustainable than wanting to fit into a pair of jeans. Starting the weight loss journey for the right reasons is important. After a significant weight loss and regain, starting the process again is very difficult.
Start fresh with a mindset that it is a lifestyle change and not a diet. The journey is part of you and is not just changing your body.
You are not doing this because you have to. You are doing this because you get to and because you want to. Self-efficacy is knowing that you have control over your behaviors and over making a lifestyle change for the long-haul.
Start off small and focus on changing one thing at a time. Be patient and know that slowing down the process is more sustainable.