The Golden Rules To Losing Weight and Keeping It Off Forever

What do people who lose weight and keep it off permanently have in common? Individuals who are successful in losing weight have excelled at these 5 rules.
Posted on Jul 18, 2021 By Valentina Duong Valentina Duong

1. Making The First 8 Weeks Count!

Starting early and strong matters in the long run! Early weight loss can predict long-term success. The Look AHEAD study followed 2,290 adults on their weight loss for 8 years and provided an intensive weight loss intervention. It described successful weight loss as losing more than 5% of body weight and maintaining it 8 years later. [1]

It found that:

  • Losing over 3% of your body weight in the first 2 months makes you more likely to keep the weight off 8 years later.
  • Losing more than 6% of their body weight in the first 2 months makes you 2.28x more likely to maintain the weight loss after 8 years (compared to less than 3% weight loss).
  • In fact, 77% of participants who were successful at the 8 year mark lost over 3% of their body weight within the first 2 months.

What does this look like?

If you are 70kg, 3-6% weight loss would equal to a 2.1 – 4.2 kg weight loss across 2 months.  That’s about 250g – 525g per week which is achievable and safe.

the first 8 weeks of weight loss matter

2. Regular check-ins with goal setting, monitoring and feedback.

Successful long-term weight loss requires long-term attention and interaction with healthcare providers. Within the AHA/ACC/TOS guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults, it is recommended that comprehensive weight loss programs continue for a minimum of 1 year. [2]

The benefits of regular check-ins include:

  • Having someone to provide accountability
  • Support in identifying difficulties and problem solving
  • Reliable source of information
  • Emotional support
  • Creating goals and strategies together

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get support and stay connected with your accountability with restrictions continuing to tighten.

Virtual consults are still available

dietitian valentina

3. Reducing Screen Time

A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis found that targeting screen time in weight loss interventions was effective at lowering at reducing BMI. [3]

This approach may work for you by:

  • Reducing the amount of grazing that occurs in your downtime when watching shows or working.
  • Limiting your exposure to food advertising. Have you noticed that you are constantly bombarded about ads from major fast-food chains, Uber Eats, and major confectionery brands?
  • Increasing physical activity time and lowering sedentary behavior.

How to realistically implement this?

  • Turn screens off at mealtimes.
  • Schedule in an activity or walk during your mid-afternoon slump when you are most likely going to be sedentary.
  • Choose and plan healthier snacks for movie nights including air-popped popcorn, fruit, cheese and crackers.

Overweight man getting up, running, and become thin transformation. Vector artwork concept shows a stage by stage of an obese man turning himself into a healthy body by running.

4. Cognitive Flexibility & Realistic Expectations.

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adapt our perspective, attitude and behavior in response to our environment. It requires us to accept that we will not “perfectly” follow your diet or exercise plan and that when things go wrong, we must adapt and get back on track.

For many, maintaining weight is much more difficult than weight loss. This is because despite high effort, their bodies remain similar and they don’t feel a sense of accomplishment or success. This can lead to a return in old habits and coping strategies. Realistic expectations set you up for success. [4]

While rigid approaches (like cutting out carbohydrates or other food groups) can feel like a simplified approach to nutrition, it is associated with poorer weight control. A rigid, inflexible approach to dieting can make it more difficult to adapt to changes in circumstances and overcome setbacks. The “all or nothing” mentality is unrealistic and can cause individuals tog et caught up in a cycle of bingeing and restricting.

If you’d like support of a registered dietitian in transitioning to a more flexible and sustainable approach,  you can contact me here.

balanced diet instead of a rigid, inflexible diet is better for weight loss
A balanced diet instead of a rigid, inflexible diet is better for weight loss and maintenance.

5. Relapse Prevention Training

The inevitable slip ups will occur but how do we stop ourselves from giving up and falling back to our old habits.

The best ways to prevent relapse involves:

  • Re-engaging and touching base with your healthcare provider to create a plan.
  • Proactively anticipating challenges and solving potential problems.
  • Building strategies for coping mechanisms beyond comfort eating in response to a difficult day or binge eating due to overwhelm and frustrates. Those who successfully maintain weight loss find alternate ways to cope with tough emotions and situations.
  • Addressing unhelpful thoughts e.g.” I’m a failure” or “I can’t control myself around food”

stress management and relapse prevention. women meditating and listening to music

Unick, J. L., Neiberg, R. H., Hogan, P. E., Cheskin, L. J., Dutton, G. R., Jeffery, R., Nelson, J. A., Pi-Sunyer, X., West, D. S., Wing, R. R., & Look AHEAD Research Group (2015). Weight change in the first 2 months of a lifestyle intervention predicts weight changes 8 years later. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 23(7), 1353–1356.
2013 AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and The Obesity Society. Jensen MD, Ryan DH, Apovian CM, Ard JD, Comuzzie AG, Donato KA, Hu FB, Hubbard VS, Jakicic JM, Kushner RF, Loria CM, Millen BE, Nonas CA, Pi-Sunyer FX, Stevens J, Stevens VJ, Wadden TA, Wolfe BM, Yanovski SZ, Jordan HS, Kendall KA, Lux LJ, Mentor-Marcel R, Morgan LC, Trisolini MG, Wnek J, Anderson JL, Halperin JL, Albert NM, Bozkurt B, Brindis RG, Curtis LH, DeMets D, Hochman JS, Kovacs RJ, Ohman EM, Pressler SJ, Sellke FW, Shen WK, Smith SC Jr, Tomaselli GF, American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines., Obesity Society. Circulation. 2014 Jun 24; 129(25 Suppl 2):S102-38
Wu, Lei MPHa; Sun, Samio PhDb,c; He, Yao MD, PhDa,d,*; Jiang, Bin MD, PhDe The effect of interventions targeting screen time reduction, Medicine: July 2016 - Volume 95 - Issue 27 - p e4029 doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000004029
Hall, K. D., & Kahan, S. (2018). Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. The Medical clinics of North America, 102(1), 183–197.
Valentina Duong
Valentina Duong
A nutritionist and powerlifter with numerous first place finishes at national and international competitions. Valentina's rediscovering joy, one snack at a time.


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