The maintaining game

If you've recently set a weight-loss goal and achieved it, congratulations! But here's the bad news: the hard part isn't over yet. Now you have to maintain your new weight.

Given that you need to cut more calories from your diet to lose weight than you do to maintain your body weight, you'd think from here on out you'd be cruising. But studies have shown that even if you successfully lose weight, your chances of keeping it off are, well, slim.

So why is weight maintenance so hard?

There are a few factors at play. For starters, at your new, lower weight, your body needs fewer calories to fuel itself, which means you need to consume fewer calories than before you lost weight just to stay the same. If you lost weight through diet alone, rather than diet and exercise, chances are, you also lost muscle - which also affects the rate at which your body burns calories.

And that's just the physical stuff. There are some emotional factors, too, some of which have to do with how you viewed your diet in the first place.

Many people view dieting as a means to an end, rather than as a permanent change. That means that all the good habits they picked up along the way - from exercising to making good meal choices to regularly weighing themselves - fall to the wayside as soon as they've reached their goal. But if your old eating and exercise habits are what made you overweight to begin with, it makes sense that resuming those ways will cause the pounds to creep back on.

Even if you are fairly committed to maintaining your new habits, motivation can be a problem. Back when you were dieting, the regularly-declining numbers on your scale probably went a long way towards helping you stay on track. But it's just not as exciting when the goal is just to keep the number the same, week in and week out.

With all those obstacles in the way, it's a wonder anyone ever manages to keep the weight off. But maintaining your new weight is as important to your health as losing it was in the first place. Did you know that the cycle of losing weight and then gaining it, sometimes referred to as "yo-yo dieting," can actually cause health problems?

One study that was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that yo-yo dieting may weaken the immune system. There is also some evidence that yo-yo dieting may increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and gallstones. But while many experts say the risks associated with this type of dieting shouldn't stop you from trying to lose weight if you are overweight, they do underscore the importance of finding a weight-loss plan that will help you not only lose the fat, but keep it off as well.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team