Losing weight and keeping it off can sometimes be more challenging than losing it. But what if you could make things easier by incorporating certain behavior change techniques the next time you finish a weight loss diet?
What did they test? The researchers meta-analyzed the currently available literature to see which behavior change techniques are most effective in preventing weight regain.
What did they find? Behavior change techniques like reviewing your goals, graded tasks and feedback on your behavior can significantly prevent weight regain.
What does it mean for you? Gradually approaching new goals in addition to receiving feedback on your behavior and frequently reviewing your goals can help prevent weight regain following a weight loss diet. Working with a coach or other exercise professional may further improve your ability to maintain your new body weight.
What’s the Problem?
In a world where obesity is a global health challenge and is continuously on the rise, losing weight and keeping it off can be particularly challenging, especially for individuals who do not have access to the necessary guidance to do so effectively and sustainably. Losing weight may be simple on paper, i.e.: calories in vs calories out, but since obesity is multifactorial and can be affected by a plethora of factors, including cultural, socioeconomic and behavioral factors 1, losing weight is not always as simple as some people make it out to be.
The challenge of losing weight is also multiphasic as losing weight is just one phase of one’s weight loss journey with keeping it off in the long term is sometimes the more challenging phase and where many people fail. A classic example of the above is the study that looked at the contestants of the TV show “The Biggest Loser”, where individuals lost up to roughly 200lb in 30 weeks of very aggressive dieting. Still, then many of them regained the majority of the weight back 2. Don’t get me wrong, the contestants in “The Biggest Loser” dieted extremely aggressively for 30 weeks, which negatively affected their metabolism, and had the help of a plethora of exercise professionals as well as the pressure of being on TV. They definitely do not represent the average individual who wants to lose weight sustainably while also going about their life. However, the “biggest loser” contestants’ weight regain highlights the importance of appropriate habit formation and behavior change needed if one wants to keep their weight off following a dieting period.
A systematic review and meta-analysis by Machado et al. 3 looked to understand weight regain after weight-loss interventions, noting that it is very common for individuals to regain their lost weight, primarily due to a lack of adherence to a “proper” diet and exercise regimen. Machado et al. 3 found that participants in several trials had regained weight, with some fully regaining all the weight they had lost. However, they also found that lifestyle interventions effectively maintained weight loss lower than the participants' baseline weight (roughly 5% below baseline), demonstrating that it is possible to utilize different tools and techniques to avoid weight regain following a weight loss period.