You go through a ton of effort, dedication, and commitment to losing pounds and getting to a shape you feel comfortable and happy in. It may have been a long road, but you made it, and you are thrilled. So now what? There are so many strategies, tricks, gimmicks, and products in order to lose weight. However, there is not a ton of advice on what you must do to maintain it. Although maintenance may not be as much dedication as losing the initial weight, it is not uncommon for people to gain the weight back, and then add even more on. Once this occurs, its common to go back and try the same weight loss strategy you had success with previously, only to find its not working as well. In this blog, I want to touch on WHY people rebound, and strategies you can implement to maintain your goal weight.
I am going to take a more educated guess/assumption on this one, but I find a lot of people looking to lose weight will attempt to find the quickest and easiest way possible. Often, these strategies rely on point systems like Weight Watchers, low calorie cleanse diets such as Isogenix, and others that cut out food groups all together such as the Atkins diet. With dedication, you do have the potential to lose weight through these strategies. One of the issues I have with restriction diets is that 1. they are not realistic or sustainable , 2. once the diet is done, the goal weight is met, or you plateau, it often leaves you with no further knowledge on how your system appropriately works, tools to maintain the weight, or how to get out of a plateau, and 3. the fad diets put your system in a situation where muscle is primarily being burned, so your resting metabolic rate is now slower as a result. You are left with a higher body fat percentage to muscle ratio, even if the number on the scale is less.
You are now left wanting to join back with your friends and indulge a bit after months of strict eating to celebrate your new bod, but quickly find yourself gaining a bit of the weight back. Once the weight slowly starts to creep back on, panic can set in. Once the scale starts to climb, most people automatically try to put themselves into a further deficit by eating less, and exercising more. Surely, if this is how they got to their goal weight in the first place, it is bound to work for them again, right? Wrong. Your metabolism is now damaged due to the constant deficits, and putting yourself in an even further deficit will cause your system to panic just as much as you are. Survival mode starts to kick in, and your body is now hoarding fat. What you need to understand is our bodies love achieving homeostasis, and also love to store fat. If your body begins to think you are too deprived or restricted for too long, it is going to start to hold onto and store fat. So exercising more and eating less is actually doing the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. This will only drive yourself further into fat storage mode.
So what do you do? It may seem backwards, but occasionally eating more than you would after a bout of clean and portioned eating may be the key to proper maintenance. What this strategy does is trick your body into not thinking it is too restricted or dieting, allowing it the opportunity to continue burning fat. This is where you may hear the term “re-feed”, as this is a strategy that enables you to consume more than you usually would on a day, in order for your metabolism to work harder, and hinder fat storage, prioritizing fat burning. To properly attempt this strategy, I would recommend eating as clean and portioned out as possible for 6-7 days, and having a re-feed every 7-8th day, nothing deep fried, but more indulgent then you normally would.
Another strategy that is just as important is weight training. Just as I touched on previously, deficit diets enable you to lose muscle mass, ending up with a higher body fat to muscle mass ratio. This is not ideal, as you are now left with a slower resting metabolic rate, (burning calories at a slower rate at rest), and its not efficient at burning foods off when you do indulge. So if you ever plateau, or are looking to maintain, vamp up the weight training sessions with serious intensity. For Women, I recommend doing a lower rep (8-12 reps) count at a heavier weight. Challenge yourself by writing your weights down, and re-visit them the next week or 2 and up the weights. Push yourself and your muscles to get stronger, which will increase muscle mass, leading to an increased metabolic rate, furthermore creating a more efficient system at burning fat and staying trim.
All in all, losing weight is a hard road. In a perfect world, once you make it to your goal weight you should be rewarded with anything you desire. Unfortunately, since it does not work this way, i hope these strategies shed some light as to why most people tend to rebound, or struggle to burn the fat that suddenly came right back. Remember, your metabolism is a beast of its own, so feeding it in portioned out, frequent meals can often be your best bet at maintaining. The take home message: eating less and exercising more may not be the most effective strategy to heal a damaged metabolism.