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Over 6,000 People Who Lost 50 Pounds Agree These 4 Steps Work

Many people find that the toughest aspect of weight loss is preventing those pounds from creeping back.
FACT CHECKED BY Kristen Warfield

Although losing weight can be a challenge, many people find that the toughest aspect of weight loss is preventing those pounds from creeping back. According to one meta-analysis, more than half of lost weight is regained within two years, and by five years, that number zooms up to 80%.

So, what are those who are successful in keeping the weight off doing right? A new study in the journal Obesity reveals their top strategies.

Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 participants in a weight-loss program WW who had lost more than 50 pounds and kept it off for over three years. Answering questions about their motivations and tactics, these were the most cited tips. Keep reading to find out how to keep those extra pounds off, then check out Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.

Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint.

woman running

Perseverance was the biggest theme in the survey responses, and also a key method for dealing with inevitable setbacks, according to lead researcher Suzanne Phelan, PhD, in the department of kinesiology and public health at California Polytechnic State University. By having a long-term view, it was much easier to restart quickly instead of giving up the effort to maintain control over consumption levels, she says.

Tracking really does make a huge difference.

food journal

For nearly everyone who was successful in maintaining their weight loss, tracking food had become a daily habit, even after hitting their "goal weight." One maintainer advised, "You have to get up every day and make a choice to track and eat right. This is a lifestyle change, not a diet."

Recognize and celebrate non-scale victories.

Happy mature woman with arms outstretched feeling the breeze at beach.

Another notable strategy is not to think about weight at all as a primary motivator. Weight loss maintainers noted that the most important changes were "non-scale victories" like reduced pain, better control of chronic medical conditions, feeling a greater sense of confidence as well as more ease in their bodies, and having more consistent energy and lighter moods.

Focus on health instead of weight.


As one maintainer noted, "Think of changing your eating habits as part of creating a healthy lifestyle." That means weight loss comes as a result, or even a side effect, of that shift instead of being the main focus in itself. That also helps you pivot toward other healthy changes that have been shown to improve weight loss maintenance, like daily activity, quality sleep, and reduced stress.

For more on weight loss, check out 26 Worst Belly Fat Myths, According to Experts.

Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, and nutrition. Read more about Elizabeth