The process of losing weight can feel like a roller coaster. At first, you might be dropping pounds fast and it’s exciting and invigorating. Other times, something as simple as a work happy hour can make you feel like you’re back on that slow incline, wishing you could get off the ride altogether. Often referred to as weight cycling, regaining weight can have a number of health repercussions, including an increase in bodily inflammation, which has been linked to autoimmune diseases and other illnesses such as cancer.
Still, research shows more than 80% of people with obesity who lose weight gain it back.
Here, three reasons you might be putting pounds back on and how to prevent it:
YOU’RE LOSING ENERGY
When losing weight, the body often compensates by trying to hold on to all of the energy (meaning calories) it can, which is why it can be hard to bust through a plateau. For every two pounds you lose, research shows your body will try to get you to eat roughly 100 more calories than usual.
The fix: When you feel hungry, reach for some water first. Among adults, poor hydration has been associated with higher body mass index (BMI), which means sipping before eating could be beneficial.
YOUR WEIGHT-LOSS STRATEGY WAS AN OVERHAUL
If you fall into the fad diet trap, you might shed pounds in the short-term, but such diets are often restrictive and hard to maintain. Thus, once you revert back to your old eating patterns, it’s likely you’ll regain the weight. That’s because the approach is unsustainable, says Dr. Alex Robles, creator of White Coat Trainer. “When you change your diet too drastically it’s not something you can stick with forever.”
The fix: Shift your eating habits with slow, controlled and sustainable factors, he says, like making one small change at a time (such as swapping out your soda and juice for water for seven days). “Once you do this for a week, add another small change,” he suggests. “By following this method, it won’t drastically shift your lifestyle and it will be easier to maintain,” says Robles. This compounds over time and yields a lasting result.
YOU’RE NOT FOCUSING ON THE REAL ISSUES
“Most weight-loss efforts do not address the psychological factors underlying the person’s food and health choices,” says Dawn MacLaughlin, PhD, author of “Food Fight: Ending the Struggle Once and For All.” “Unless those are confronted, any weight change will only be temporary.”
The fix: Try journaling regularly about how you feel, especially when it comes to eating. By keeping a food log you might find stress causes you to reach for processed, sugary snacks or that you tend to eat mindlessly when watching TV. Recognizing these patterns is important for identifying why you reach for certain foods.