In most cases, the science behind being overweight comes down to a matter of energy balance. Excess fat is stored when people take in more energy (through food and drink) than they are using up in physical activity.
Our current environment means that it is easier to gain weight than it used to be. We have access to cheap, processed foods that are high in calories and we tend to do less physical activity in our daily lives. This has led to increasing numbers of people becoming overweight.
If we can reduce the number of calories that we take in, and increase our levels of physical activity, we can shift the energy balance back in favour of a healthy weight.
Daily Nutritional Requirements for Weight Loss:
|Requirements per day||Men||Women|
|Energy as Calories (Kcals)||1500-1800||1200-1500|
|Saturated Fat (g)||16-20||13-17|
When you have reached your target weight, you may need to adjust your calorie intake to ensure that your weight remains stable in a healthy weight range. Generally, a healthy weight range can be defined as a BMI of 18.5-25.
During the first phase (usually lasting three to six months) a weight loss occurs, followed by a second phase where ideally the weight is maintained1. However, for many people the weight is slowly regained. Researchers have provided lots of evidence and recommendations on how people can lose weight but less is known about how they can they can keep the weight off successfully2.
If you are overweight, losing a moderate amount of weight (5-10% of your starting weight) can bring significant health benefits 3, 4. However, to maintain those health benefits it is important to keep the weight off. This goal can be a challenging and a difficult process.
According to some studies, the difficulty associated with weight maintenance could be related to the natural process of our body to regain the lost weight,5 but also to psychological causes such as going back to old unhealthy dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles6. However, our weight rarely stays exactly the same and could fluctuate for many reasons, including: fluid retention during a menstrual cycle and water fluctuations after activity7
Successfully keeping the weight off is associated with several psychological factors. For example, research has shown that people are less likely to keep the weight off8 when they:
Several strategies can help us keep our weight off. These strategies can be related to the way we are thinking but also to our lifestyle habits.
One of the great sources of information for weight maintenance is the National Weight Control Registry established by R.Wing and O.Hill in 19949. The National Weight Control Registry aims to collect information regarding successful weight loss maintenance, they reported that people who can keep their weight the same are the people who10:
According to clinical guidelines National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) (2006) and Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) (2010):
“Weight loss maintenance” is a challenging process but very important. Maintaining the weight that we have lost means that we have made sustainable lifestyle changes that can help to protect us from future health risks. Successful weight loss maintenance is influenced by our healthy dietary habits and our regular physical activity patterns. Mechanisms that can support weight loss maintenance include regular monitoring of our weight.
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