You've hit that magic number at last; now what do you do? The goal is to lose the extra weight and never find it again. Unfortunately, only about of third of dieters are successful at maintaining their loss. Seasoned dieters know that keeping it off takes vigilance, and for some folks, that's more difficult than the actual weight loss. Maintaining weight loss requires continued modification of your lifestyle. If you go back to the habits that caused you to be overweight in the first place, weight gain is inevitable. Permanent weight loss calls for healthy eating and exercise routines, just like the ones you developed while you lost the weight. Many people relax their vigilance too much after they lose weight, then gain it right back. You can relax a little once you've reached your goal -- but only a little.
Pick a few permanent weight loss tips from the list below, stick to 'em like it's your job, and prepare to stay in your skinny jeans for life. And for some extra motivation, why not check out these 25 Best Weight Loss Tips from Doctors?
1 - Don't do fad diets
Within two years of dieting, between 18 and 30 percent of dieters can regain over half the weight they lost, according to research presented at ENDO 2016, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society. The reason? They all slimmed down with the help of a diet, which by definition is short term and doesn't produce life long results. To hit your goal weight and stay there, you need to make permanent changes to your lifestyle. Not sure how? Check out these healthy eating habits for some inspiration.
2- Strength train
While it's possible to lose weight without doing a single pushup or burpee, in order to keep it off permanently, physical activity is must, says James O. Hill, PhD, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry: a 25-year ongoing, prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance.
But not all workouts are created equal. Although cardio gets all of the glory, interval and strength training are the real heroes in the world of weight maintenance. These methods of exercise will help you replace flab with hard, sexy muscle which will boost your metabolism and make it easier to keep off those sneaky pounds.
For the best results, do strength or interval training twice a week and aim for an hour of physical activity a day—that could mean walking, swimming or running errands. Just get off your tush and move! Why an hour? The majority of successful losers (90 percent!)who have maintained their weight loss for an average of 5.5 years report moving for about an hour a day, according to the National Weight Control Registry.
3-Walk when you can
To ensure you fit in those 60 minutes and fit in more daily steps, rethink your commute. On the days that I have to skip the gym, I force myself to walk home from work instead of hopping in a cab or taking the bus. If you drive to work, cycle to the office once a week or park your car further away from the entrance. However you decide to do it, the more steps you take, the better. The majority of people (52 percent) who have lost weight and kept it off report walking for an hour a day, according to an Obesity study. So, fit in those steps wherever you can! And to get more out of each and every stride.
4-Only eat if you're hungry—not bored
Constantly eating when you don't need the fuel is a major contributor to weight gain. Before you pop something into your mouth, ask yourself why you're eating. (We're lookin' at you Ms. Office Candy Bowl.) Are you actually hungry or are you just angry, stressed, anxious or board? If it's any of the latter feelings, healthy snacks like carrot sticks and apples won't seem appealing. If you're not hungry enough to eat a plant, vow to not eat anything at all.
Recent Cornell University findings suggest that shying away from the scale can cause those former pounds to sneak back onto your frame—not what you want! According to senior author David Levitsky, people who weigh themselves daily and track the results are more likely to lose weight and keep it off than those who check in less often. The method "forces you to be aware of the connection between your eating and your weight," Levitsky said in a press statement. "The scale also acts as a priming mechanism, making you conscious of food and enabling you to make choices that are consistent with your weight."
6-Exercise in the morning
We already told you that sticking to a fitness routine is an absolute must for weight maintenance but that doesn't make finding the time—or motivation— after a busy workday any easier. The solution to the problem: Wake up an hour and a half early and fit in your workout before heading to the office. If you're up at 5 a.m. with nothing else to do but break a sweat, odds are pretty low that you'll skip out on your boot camp or spin class. For more creative ways to stay motivated in the morning, check out these fun ways to lose weight.
7-Put your workouts on your schedule
Can't bear the thought of rising before the sun? At the beginning of each week, take out a planner and schedule all of your workouts for the day's ahead. If you just let your week and unfold randomly, odds are far lower you'll fit in your fitness. Schedule an appointment with a trainer or a friend, book a class, or fit it in at home.
Your workouts aren't the only things you need to plan ahead to stay fit for life, you'll also need to map out your meals. "People have a much better chance of having a slim waistline if they plan when they are going to eat and what they are going to eat," says Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and founder of Body By Mark Wellness. "Before I go to bed, I look at my schedule for the next day and plan out what I am going to eat and where I will eat it. If you let the day begin without planning, it will be 3 p.m. before you know it and you'll wind up making an unhealthy decision."
9-Store healthy meals in the freezer
Registered dietitian and Fellow of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Christine M. Palumbo, RD agrees but takes a slightly different approach meal prep: "Identity three meals you can prepare with pantry staples and start cooking. Store the meals in your freezer so you always have something healthy on hand when hunger strikes. For example, my go-to meals include risotto with frozen shrimp and asparagus, vegetable barley, and red lentil soup. Your goal should be to replace the meals whenever your stash starts running low."
10-Find a supportive fitness group
How much your close friends weigh, plays a major role in how much you'll weigh, say Harvard School of Public Health researchers. In fact, their findings suggest that a person's chance of becoming obese increases by 57% if a close friend is obese—and it makes sense: If your buddies all love meeting up for burgers and beers on the reg, it will be really hard to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle. Our advice? From time to time suggest getting into other types of activities like yoga or a healthy cooking class. You could also consider hosting get-togethers at your house so you can control the menu.
Another tip: Try to meet new people who enjoy living the healthy lifestyle you now lead. (A gym class or hiking group is a great place to introduce yourself!) This will help add a healthy balance to your life, without kicking your long-time besties to the curb. For more ways to maintain your newfound flat abs, check out these best foods for muscle definition!
Eating frequently might sound counterintuitive if you're trying to keep the pounds off, but munching consistently throughout the day is key to blood sugar and hunger management, explains registered dietitian Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN. When you eat something every three or four hours, it keeps your metabolism humming and you'll never get too hungry. This ensures you'll always be in a position to make smart diet decisions which is key to keeping the weight off long term. Not sure what to eat between meals?
12-Hold the extras
Despite conventional wisdom, maintaining a major weight loss doesn't mean giving up croissants and cookies for good. It does, however, require cutting calories where you won't miss 'em anyway so indulging from time to time won't do any damage to your waistline. Swap fries for apple slices at McDonald's, keep the cheese off your sandwiches and salads and ask for the sauce on the side when you dine out at a restaurant. Believe it or not, these simple tweaks will save you hundreds of calories—without drastically altering the taste of your meals. For even more calorie-saving tips, check out these ways to cut calories!
13-Eat breakfast daily
Get this: 78 percent of National Weight Control Registry members—who have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off for 5.5 years—regularly eat breakfast, according to a report published in Obesity. Though researchers haven't discovered a definite connection between the morning meal and weight loss, one theory is that when you start your day with something healthy and satiating it helps set a healthy tone for the rest of the day. To get on board, whip up one of these overnight oats recipes or enjoy an omelet with some Ezekiel bread and some berries.
14-Keep triggers away
Almost everyone has heard the rule that it's okay to eat anything and everything so long as you do so in moderation—but that may not be the best approach to lifelong weight maintenance, according to 2015 PLOS ONE findings. The study of 6,814 people found that the majority of the time, varied diets lead to weight gain.
"Though it can be scary to imagine completely cutting out the foods that you love, eating everything in moderation is actually near impossible—especially when it comes to foods with addictive properties, like sugar. You'll likely find yourself going back for more and more which can slow your weight loss results," explains registered dietitian Cassie Bjork, RD. "That's why it's actually more beneficial to completely cut out the foods that increase your cravings and keep you wanting more." For example, if you know that chocolate is your #1 trigger food it's best to cut it out altogether rather than trying to stick to a small serving. In the mood for something sweet? Check out these delicious weight loss smoothies!
15-Limit yourself to three
Fun fact: National Weight Control Registry members, who have all lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least a year, eat 2.5 meals per week at a restaurant—and only 0.74 meals per week at fast food joints like Burger King and McDonald's—according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report. And we have to say, it's a smart move. Limiting the number of times you dine away from home is an easy way to keep excess calories, salt, sugar and fat off of your plate without a second of thought. Dine out no more than three times per week—and stick to these low-calorie restaurant meals under 500 calories—to keep your waistline trim and lean!
16-Focus on flavonoids
Sure, all fruits and veggies are healthy and low-cal, but did you know that when it comes to keeping away those waist-expanding pounds, flavonoid-rich foods like bananas, strawberries, grapes, pears, onions, peppers, and celery are the best bets? In a 2016 British Medical Journal study of 124,000 middle-aged and older people, those who ate a diet rich in flavonoid-filled foods maintained their weight better than those who didn't—and it makes a lot of sense. Earlier findings suggested that the naturally occurring plant compounds could ward off inflammation and fat absorption.
"Holidays, vacations, crazy work weeks…it doesn't matter. Every week, people who remain lean, stick to their healthy habits," Langowski tells us. "My most successful clients are the ones who stay consistent with their workouts throughout the year; they don't let anything get in the way of their workout! It's like putting on their pants or brushing their teeth and is something that they wouldn't think of not doing!"
The same mentality should hold true for your diet, too. The majority of people who lose weight and keep it off, report that their diet is the same on both the weekends and weekdays, according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report. Simply put, don't go crazy eating wings, pizza and cheat meals just because it's Saturday. Your body doesn't care what day of the week it is, and neither should you.
18-Limit screen time
Curious what else successful losers do? Well, we'll tell you one thing they don't do: Netflix and chill. The average American watches 28 hours of TV per week, while the NWCR reports that those who have shed 30+ pounds and kept it off for at least a year, log fewer than 10 hours per week in front of the boob tube.
19-Follow the plate rule
Counting calories may have helped you lose weight initially, but as you might have guessed, it's not a habit you can maintain for life. Instead, hold onto your flat belly and lose weight permanently with the help of the plate rule. "I never recommend counting calories to any of my clients," says Smith. " Instead, I tell them to fill 50% of their plate at each meal with non-starchy vegetables like kale, broccoli and carrots. This ensures that they'll take in a fair amount of fiber, which promotes satiety and weight maintenance."
Unrefined carbohydrates like beans, sweet potatoes and whole grains should make up a fourth of the plate and the last fourth should be reserved for lean proteins. Research backs Smith's claim: A Brigham Young University College study found that women who consume more fiber have a significantly lower risk of gaining weight than those who eat less of the nutrient, likely because they consumed fewer overall calories throughout the day.
20-Don't get discouraged
Last, and most importantly: don't get discouraged if the scale swings upwards a bit. Vacations, holidays, and stressful life situations happen, and not to mention, weight fluctuations are totally normal. If you feel your pants getting tighter, take it with a grain of salt but don't forget about it. Examine what you're doing differently and commit to getting back on the bandwagon—it's as simple as that! And always remember, maintenance is a marathon, not a sprint; you're in this for life! To set yourself for even more success, you should read up on the 30 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do If You Want to Lose Weight.