Losing Weight vs. Maintaining: Which is Harder?

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Here's a sobering finding on the difficulty of maintaining weight after losing it: within three to five years, people typically regain all of that weight.

"People may successfully lose weight, but maintaining that weight is really where the challenge begins," Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, tells MyHealthNews.

And new research shows that it may take a different kind of strategy to successfully maintain weight loss than the kind that helped you lose the weight in the first place.

"It's intuitive to think the same things that got you there would keep you there," study leader Dr. Christopher Sciamanna told MyHealthNews. "What we found is that may not be the case."

The researchers in the study -- which analyzed survey responses from 926 people who were overweight -- found two techniques that helped with weight maintenance:

  • Reminding yourself why you need to control your weight, and
  • Rewarding yourself for sticking to a diet and exercise plan

Robert Jeffery, director of the Obesity Prevention Center at the University of Minnesota, was skeptical of the study's results. He told MyHealthNews the actions taken for both losing weight and maintaining weight were "very much the same," and that the differences may be more a matter of not what people do, but how diligently they do it.

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"We have information on people who have successfully lost large amounts of weight and kept it up for a long time," Jeffery said. "They exercise a lot more than most people do, and they eat a lot healthier diets than most people do."

"It's possible to do, but for most people, it's going to require something different from what most people do, and that's the struggle," he said.

It essentially boils down to motivation, he said -- and "[w]e don't have a magic bullet to create motivation out of thin air."

One thing Jeffery does agree on: the importance of changing routines. His own research has focused on having people vary diets by month and sometimes even taking a month during which they aren't being actively instructed on how to diet.

Read more at MSNBC: "If you lost weight, you need all-new diet strategy now"

Was it more difficult for you to lose weight or to maintain it? How do you successfully maintain weight loss?

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