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Ever Wondered Why You Can’t Maintain Weight Loss?

In reality, for most people, losing weight is not that difficult.  It is simply a matter of eating less than you burn which is quite achievable for a short period of time.

There are a plethora of ‘diets’ out there that can assist with this:

  • Low Carb
  • Low fat
  • Keto
  • Slimming World (dare I say it..)
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • etc etc etc….

None of these approaches has a particular superior benefit; they all work by creating a calorie deficit as I explain here.

The real issue, of course, is keeping this weight off long term.  Anyone can stick to a restrictive diet in the short term but, the truth is, that unless you find an approach that really suits you and your lifestyle, you will end up back at square one or perhaps even worse off i.e. heavier than before.

Why do we Yo-Yo?

The answer to this is simple – everyone wants a quick fix!!  We are all too eager to jump on the next fad diet or body cleanse to shift the weight fast which is all well and good, but without any behaviour change or nutrition education, they are doomed to fail in the long run.

We are human, we cannot deprive ourselves of the food we love forever.  It is not just a matter of will power or discipline; we have reserved stores that eventually run out.  In addition, we have social, emotional and economic factors that affect what we eat and when not to mention the obesogenic environment we live in.

Are we doomed to constantly fail?

In short, no!  The good news is that research has revealed that there are in fact common traits amongst those who manage to maintain weight loss and those who don’t.

A study by Kayman et al looked at the attitudes and behaviours of :

  • ‘MAINTAINERS’ – women who lost 20% of their body weight and kept it off for more than 2 years
  • ‘RELAPSERS’ – women who lost 20% of their body weight but regained all of it or more.

Now, whilst this was an observational study, so not of the highest form of research, it was interesting nonetheless.  It provides us with some valuable insight into the common strategies that underpin long term success.

What did it reveal about ‘maintainers’?

It is not surprising that there were some stark contrasts between the behaviours and attitudes of those who kept the weight off vs those who didn’t.

Some of the traits ‘maintainers’ shared are as follows:

…each maintainer used these strategies in ways that were specific to her own lifestyle.

Maintainers found themselves able to deemphasise food in their lives.

Maintainers reported being patient, setting small goals that they could meet, and sicking to their personally devised weight loss plans.

However, they did not completely restrict favourite foods and made efforts to avoid feelings of deprivation while changing food patterns.

Unlike replapsers, maintainers were aware that they needed to continue to be conscious of the quantity and type of food they consumed as well as the level of activity necessary to stay at  the reduced weight.

What about ‘relapsers’?

A common theme amongst those who relapsed was restriction which led to feelings of deprivation.

Here were some of the observations;

They had lost weight by taking appetite suppressants, fasting or going on restrictive diets that they could not sustain.

While dieting they did not permit themselves ant of the foods they enjoyed and perceived their diet foods as special foods.

Relapsers seemed to see their lost weight as ‘gone’ ans were surprised to find themselves heavy again.

They felt deprived on the restrictive diets and easily went back to old patterns.

It would appear that those who ended up back at square one saw their ‘diet’ as a short term fix, they did not make the behaviour change necessary to keep the weight off.


To conclude, it seems fair to suggest that successful weight loss and subsequent maintenance comes down to finding an approach that is realistic, manageable, personalised and includes some form of activity.

Putting too much pressure on yourself and sacrificing foods you enjoy ultimately ends in failure.  It is much more effective to find a way that fits in with your lifestyle so that you don’t end up overthinking it and giving up too soon.

If you can establish behaviour change, it will gradually become effortless and part of who you are.  This often takes a personalised nutrition plan alongside effective coaching, both of which I can help with.  So, if you are ready to improve your life for good, get in touch.

This was brought to you by Rebecca Flannery, Evidence-Based Nutrition Coach.

A special thank you to Danny Lennon from Sigma Nutrition for highlighting this study.