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Why is it so hard to maintain weight loss?

You diet and exercise, but after successfully losing 20 pounds, you gain it all back. Why is it so hard to lose weight and keep it off? Karen Andry, RN, LDN, CDE, a bariatric specialty dietitian at Piedmont Atlanta, explains.

The set-point theory

“There is a theory called the set-point theory that says your body has a specific weight that it wants to maintain,” says Andry.

According to the theory, the body likes to regulate its fat storage. When you diet and lose weight, your body believes you are starving yourself. In an effort to defend its fat stores, the body tries to hold onto calories, slowing weight loss and increasing hunger.

Leptin: The starvation hormone

Andry says a reduction in leptin, a hormone produced by the body’s fat cells, can also affect your ability to maintain weight loss.

“When you lose weight, you lose fat and that decreases your leptin,” says Andry. “When your leptin levels are low, the body stimulates your appetite and slows your metabolism to motivate you to go find food.”

How to successfully maintain weight loss

So how can you defeat the set-point theory and successfully maintain weight loss? Andry offers the following tips:

  • Ramp up your workouts. If you walk every day, try to push yourself by increasing the distance or adding hand weights. You can also ramp up your routine by trying new forms of exercise. Instead of hitting the treadmill, try swimming or a spin class.

  • Get more sleep.Poor sleep increases your hunger hormones, making it easier for you to gain weight,” says Andry. “If you have trouble sleeping or think you may have sleep apnea, consult your doctor.”

  • Plan your meals. Start a structured meal plan and don’t skip meals.

  • Use tracking apps. Use a Fitbit or an app like MyFitnessPal to monitor your meals and activity level.

  • Set realistic goals. Don’t try to lose 100 pounds in three months. Set realistic weight loss goals that you can achieve.

Learn more about weight loss and bariatric surgery at Piedmont.

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