Mastering the art of weight maintenance

When you pass your driving test it takes time to get used to being at the wheel. Similarly, when you lose weight, you still need time – and support – to master the art of weight maintenance.

Why is it that so many people jump back into the habits that got them into trouble in the first place?

If just living off a calorie-restricted regime was the simple cure for obesity, we would not have an epidemic. Almost all overweight and obese people have lost some weight in the past. Some are experts at calorie counting. But sustained change is tough. Plans are planned, challenges challenged and goals are set, all to be shattered soon after.

One of the errors that makes weight stabilisation difficult is the commonly held misconception that the skills of eating less and perhaps moving more, which were used to lose the weight, are not required now to keep the weight off.

Most slimming clubs and treatment programmes see weight loss as the ultimate goal. Wanting to keep the weight off is an assumed state, driven by a misguided belief that determination is enough not to put the weight back on. But then the individual hits the future without an effective strategy in place.

Many people regain weight because they behave as if they had a weight problem and now they've lost the weight, they've lost the problem.

One of the silent consequences of weight loss is the change that happens to metabolic rate, the measure of fuel the body uses in a similar way that a car uses petrol. The main determinant of metabolic rate is body weight. Simplistically, the smaller the body, the fewer calories and amount of fuel is required. Just as a Mini uses less petrol than a Rolls Royce; the heavier someone is, the more they can eat without getting fatter.

It may be obvious that people can’t revert back to the eating behaviour that led to the weight gain in the first place, but many don’t realise that now they have a smaller body, they will need to eat even less than they did before.

Successful long-term weight management needs long-term support to help people develop all of the skills they will need for living their new life. If loss is not managed appropriately, then gain will follow. The mind and body are not separate entities. Obesity is a result of the complexity that it is to be human. Simply changing body size without changing what’s inside cannot have a lasting effect.