This question is the part of my job I find the most heart-wrenching.
I get emails and messages from people all the time who have lost weight but then gained it back.
And because they’ve gained some or all of the weight back, they share with me that they feel like they’ve failed.
The truth is we are not guaranteed to keep off every pound of weight we lose.
That’s why I encourage you to find a maintainable weight range you can live with. If you have gained back a substantial amount of weight after losing it, and you’re not feeling good about where you are, there is hope. You can get back to where you want to be!
I’ve been in your shoes. I actually lost 80 pounds in high school. But then, throughout my early twenties I ended up gaining back all of the 80 pounds I’d lost and added an extra 90 pounds to my frame.
It was a very hard pill to swallow. I’d done all that work. And then to have gone completely in the other direction.
So, please know that if you’re dealing with weight regain: you are not alone.
What we need to do is reflect on this as a learning opportunity. Ask yourself: why was your previous weight loss not sustainable? Maybe you’ve always picked diets and were able to adhere to them for a short time. Then, when life got difficult or you felt too deprived, you fell back on old habits. Or maybe you had some major life disruption that drastically altered your healthy habit behaviors in a way you didn’t expect. (I talk more about this in my “Which diet is best for weight loss?” blog post.)
Your habits constantly need fine-tuning. As our life evolves—we change careers, family members get sick, illness, or any other major change—our healthy habits are impacted. To avoid this, you need to evaluate what broke down in your weight maintenance system. This is what caused you to regain the weight.
Once you’ve lost the weight again, you don’t want to fall victim to those old behaviors. By understanding what caused the weight gain, you know what to watch for in the future.
The next step is to stop approaching your weight loss the same way you always have. Often, people who have regained weight desperately want to get back to their goal. So they immediately start doing the same diet or program that helped them lose weight the last time.
It’s understandable why someone might think this is the way to go, but it really makes no sense.
Think about it: Whatever you did to lose weight did not prepare you for whatever caused your weight regain. You need to start to approach this situation differently if you want to get different results.
Have you ever tried to maintain your current weight on purpose? Here’s what I mean: Let’s say you lost weight and got down to 160 pounds, But now you are 200 pounds. The knee-jerk reaction is to get back down to 160. But wait! Have you learned how many calories you need to maintain the 200 pounds on purpose?
On purpose means you are not restricting your foods or binge eating. It means you aren’t only tracking and eating “on plan” Monday through Friday, but then eating whatever you want on the weekend.
It does mean you should find a calorie amount that allows you to maintain your 200 pounds. Then, when eating at that calorie level, on purpose, and tracking your food every day, you’ll discover you can maintain your current weight.
But I can hear you now, “Heather are you crazy? I don’t want to maintain 200 pounds on purpose!”
I get it.
And when I was in my yo-yo dieting days I would have had the same response. But the problem is you are in a panic to get back to where you want. You are trying to rush back to what “worked”. But are you being honest about where you are now? Are you setting yourself up for success if you go down the same path you’ve gone down (many times) before?
What happens on the day you can’t hit your weight loss calories? Do you have any other options for what to do?
No, you don’t. And that’s because you don’t know your maintenance calories. If you’re going to lose this weight again, and keep it off, you have to take a different approach.
Remember the definition of insanity?
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
This is why I created the teaching toolkit Fight the Weight Gain. It’s an eight-step process to get you back on track losing the weight, but with a different approach than you did before.
Let me help you the way I’ve helped others.
Please know that this is possible, but you’re not going to be able to use the same methods you always have if you want to get the weight off and keep it off permanently. You’re going to need to learn from your past experiences and that’s what I want to help you do.
If you’d like to hear more about my teaching toolkit, Fight the Weight Gain, please listen to this episode of Half Size Me: Episode 385.