It’s no secret that obesity has become a global epidemic, with the United States leading the pack. This has created a multibillion dollar weight loss industry that includes books, videos, supplements, and commercial weight loss programs. While weight loss is certainly an important topic, I’m going to say something that might surprise you. We already know how to lose weight. The issue that people (including scientists and doctors) need to think more about is maintenance of weight after weight loss.
This may not sound sexy, but it is really the missing ingredient in most conversations about weight loss. How many people do you know who have lost hundreds of pounds of weight over their lifetimes, only to gain it back (and more sometimes)?
In this article, I’m going to share with you some reasons that people tend to regain weight after losing it. I’ll also share with you some tactics you can use to prevent this from happening.


It is estimated that about 80% of people who lose a significant amount of weight will gain it back. Sometimes people will actually gain more weight than they initially lost. Many people attribute this to lack of self control, but it turns out that there are physiological processes that make weight maintenance very difficult.

Tough Fact #1: You’re Hungrier

Most people think that we regulate how much food we take in daily by actively deciding how much to eat. This could not be further from the truth. Food intake is largely controlled by unconscious processes. The body releases all sorts of hormones from the fat cells and the gut that act on the brain. The brain then releases chemicals that regulate appetite and energy expenditure. Studies have shown that weight loss causes a decrease in the hormones that lower appetite (leptin, PYY, CCK, GLP-1, oxyntomodulin) and increase our main hunger hormone (ghrelin). This causes the familiar increase in hunger that usually accompanies weight loss.

Tough Fact #2: Your Metabolism Does Slow Down

It makes sense that weight loss would cause you to burn fewer calories on a daily basis (i.e. slow your metabolism down). After all, it takes less energy to fuel a smaller body. Some studies even show that the metabolism decreases more than would be expected simply from the weight loss. Studies also show that the muscles become more efficient with weight loss, meaning that doing the same activity burns fewer calories.


So losing weight causes people to be hungrier and have a slower metabolism at the same time. Is there no hope? There absolutely is hope. While maintenance after weight loss is challenging, it is possible.
One of the most studied successes with weight maintenance is participants in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). This is a group of over 10,000 people who have lost significant amounts of weight (average of 66 lbs.) and kept it off (average of 5.5 years).
This group has been studied to see if there are specific behaviors that are commonly found in people who have been successful at maintaining their weight after weight loss.
It turns out that there are 5 things that most participants in the NWCR do consistently. I recommend that you follow their lead if you are trying to maintain your weight after a weight loss program:

Eat breakfast every day

78% of the participants report eating breakfast daily.

Eat a low fat, low calorie diet

98% of participant report modifying their diet in some way, most commonly with low fat, low calorie diets. Most participants report eating consistently on weekdays and weekends.

Exercise frequently

90% of participants exercise on average 1 hour per day. Walking is the most common form of exercise.

Monitor your weight

75% of participants weigh themselves at least once weekly.

Decrease screen time

62% of participants report watching less than 10 hours of TV per week.
While there are people who are successful maintaining their weight after weight loss who do not follow these principles, I recommend following as many of them as possible to increase your chances of success in the long term. These methods have been successful for thousands of people. There’s a good chance they’ll work for you too.

Feel like nerding out? Here are a few links to dive deeper.