You’ve planned your meals, kept a food journal, gone to the gym only to get on the scale and see only a half pound of weight loss. It’s just so frustrating! We’ve all heard that slow weight loss is best for weight maintenance, but why? There’s no question, faster weight loss means quicker results which is a lot more motivating than weight loss at a snail's pace. Wouldn’t it then be safe to say that the more motivated you are the greater chance you have at success?
Actually, it has nothing to do with motivation. If you are taking drastic measures to lose weight, such as following a low calorie diet or eliminating large food groups, it will be virtually impossible to achieve long term success. Instant weight loss will inevitably lead to instant gain. Time and time again, studies have shown that those who lose weight slowly have a greater chance of keeping it off. Here’s why:
Slower weight loss indicates you are eating closer to the amount of calories you would need to maintain your weight. That’s a good thing! When you lose weight quickly, either at the start of a weight loss plan (which is normal) or by following an extreme eating plan, there is drastic difference between the amount of calories you need to sustain your current weight and the amount of calories you are taking in. For example, if the calories you need to sustain your current weight is 2000 and you begin an eating plan that consists of 1400 calories, with moderate exercise you will lose approximately one and a half pounds per week. If your maintenance calories are 2000 and you’re eating 800 calories with moderate exercise you will lose three pounds per week. Why is this a problem? Maintaining a calorie intake of 800 for the long term is unrealistic. You will eventually increase your intake, ultimately leading to weight gain. Maintaining a calorie intake of 1400 is more realistic making weight maintenance possible.
No matter the pace at which you lose weight, as the weight continues to come off, the weight loss will slow down. People often refer to this as hitting a plateau. This is normal and to be expected! Plateaus occur when the calories needed to maintain your current weight is close to the amount of calories you are eating. Despite the obvious, to continue losing weight, eating less is not the answer, as that will only increase your chance of weight regain. To continue losing weight, you will need to increase your physical activity. By burning extra calories you will be creating a greater gap between calories needed to maintain and calories taken in. Keep in mind the weight loss will still be slow.
So what’s the secret for losing weight and keeping it off? Eating the maximum amount of calories your body will allow for losing weight, EVEN if it means losing a half a pound per week. Ultimately eating more calories for weight loss rather than less will help you maintain. Eating fewer calories will ensure you regain. This strategy will result in slower yet sustainable weight loss.
Weight maintenance is difficult to achieve. Because you’re motivated, doing everything possible to lose weight AND keep it off should be your goal, slow or not. Hang in there! Take the focus away from the scale, and place it on changing behaviors. As you adopt healthy behaviors, such as increasing fruits and vegetables and eating every three to four hours, the scale will respond. Have a positive attitude towards your slow and steady weight loss. Half pound per week is twenty-three pounds per year! Pound per week, fifty-six pounds per year! If you think a pound lost is not good enough think about how you would feel to see a pound gained. If the gain has such an impact, then ask yourself, why doesn’t the loss?