Should You Maintain Your Weight before You Lose?

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/11/2013 12:00 PM   :  115 comments   :  37,951 Views

"Weight loss is really hard---but maintaining that weight loss is even harder!"  If anyone out there agrees with this statement; please raise your hand. 
 
That’s what I thought. There are lots of hands held high.  It seems that most people struggle with the yo-yo syndrome: lose the weight, gain the weight, lose the weight, gain the weight.  But, what’s a dieter to do?  Perhaps it is time to put the cart before the horse.
 
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine recently conducted a "switcharoo" when it came to weight loss and weight maintenance.  They took 267 overweight and obese females and divided them into two groups.  The control group went through a traditional 20-week weight-loss program followed by an eight-week maintenance phase. 

The test group went through the eight-week maintenance phase first, and then focused on weight loss for 20 weeks.  The results were surprising to say the least, and significant.  While each group lost about the same amount of weight--17 pounds or 9% of their initial body weight--the "maintenance-first" group only gained back three pounds at their one-year follow-up but the "weight loss first" group had gained back seven pounds, on average. 
 
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it!  But guess what?  Those women who first spent eight weeks mastering the tools, techniques and skills for weight maintenance were better equipped mentally and physically to handle the day-in, day-out struggle of their toxic food environment after the 28-week program was completed.  Are you itching to discover how?  
 
  • These maintenance-first women took the first eight weeks to learn how their body weight fluctuates from day to day and week to week in relationship to sodium intake, fluid intake, hormonal changes, etc. 
     
  • They experienced less pressure, stress and worry regarding the number reported by the scale each week.   Feeling like a failure when there was an increase in weight was not a part of their vocabulary. They no longer needed to constantly question what they were doing wrong or right.  They had learned to trust the process.
     
  • These ladies took the time to search for low-fat and low-calorie foods that were satisfying options for higher calorie foods.  They could then use the discoveries for a full 20 weeks when they entered the weight loss phase.  The feeling of dieting-deprivation was much less.
     
  • The women discovered food options and recipes for their meals and celebrations.
 
Weight loss requires constant attention to detail 24/7. There is weighing, measuring, food tracking, meal planning, grocery shopping, and finding time to fit in fitness.  Every minute of every day seems to be about weight loss. It can be exhausting.  However, during maintenance, you want to "stay on your plan" but without the overwhelming amount of work 24/7.  And that is exactly what these first eight weeks of maintenance-first allowed these women to discover. Once these skills and strategies were incorporated and a part of their daily life, maintaining the weight loss following the program was much easier to accomplish and resulted in greater success.
 
Of course these researchers want to take this preliminary study to the next level. They want to test a larger group with greater diversity and follow their progress for longer than one year out. 
 
Anyone ready to volunteer? 
 
Would you be willing to begin your weight loss adventure with weight maintenance first?
 


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Comments

  • 65
    I would be interested in participating in the study. I'm one of the slowest losers. But what it has meant is that I lost weight, and I have been able to maintain that lower weight. Now I wish to lose the rest and maintain that. - 4/11/2013   4:55:28 AM
  • 64
    Yes!
    I have used this technique for several years now. While I still have some weight to lose I am mostly focused on maintaining my weight. - 4/11/2013   1:12:16 AM
  • 63
    wow I like it, my over wieght was stand on 88 kg for many years I guess that count :)
    - 4/11/2013   12:45:20 AM
  • 62
    What a sound idea, but never would have guessed! - 4/10/2013   11:10:00 PM
  • NLYR20
    61
    Will definitely want to give it a shot.... - 12/19/2012   10:58:03 AM
  • 60
    I would love to be in this study. This is what I am focusing on right now!! - 12/19/2012   9:06:05 AM
  • 59
    I would love to sign up for the research. I've been watching my waistline and stomach grow little by little, and have always wondered how to maintain after weight loss. - 12/6/2012   9:44:52 AM
  • 58
    what i do is i think of weightloss in terms of 10 sets then i maintain within two pounds for a week letting my skin snap back in to place for example say i weigh140 ill lose 10 pounds and then stay within 2 pounds 132 and for a week ill maintain that weight ill do lots of workouts that tighten my skin - 11/30/2012   8:41:52 PM
  • TMACLOSING
    57
    I lost 50# and I have maintained the loss for several years. Now, I am going to try and push a little harder and get some additional weight loss. I won't say it has been easy but I am glad that I didn't regain, so I will take it! - 11/30/2012   3:48:15 PM
  • 56
    Food for thought - 11/30/2012   9:16:21 AM
  • REDGALE
    55
    It's a great idea to consolidate what we've learned before moving on to the next phase. In my case, un-learning the habits of past diets is part of maintaining my present weight. - 11/28/2012   10:33:20 AM
  • 54
    Maintenance is so difficult because people don't to change their ways permanently. They think of losing weight as a temporary change in their habits instead of a lifelong change in their lifestyle. That is the only way to be successful. Losing weight is so difficult, maintaining instead of having to lose it all over again is worth it. - 11/28/2012   7:45:22 AM
  • 53
    Where do I sign up? :) - 11/26/2012   9:14:39 PM
  • LJ1225
    52
    I definitely believe learning to maintain first is an important step for success! I would love to volunteer for this study! - 11/26/2012   8:27:38 PM
  • 51
    I think the reasons maintenance can be so hard is that people adopt habits to lose that they don't really intend to keep. They often do too much too soon and the body and mind's desire for equilibrium fights the new habits. Brian Wansink of "Mindless Eating" fame says the best diet is the one you don't know you're on. I can't claim my plan is that casual, but I don't believe in doing much different just to lose weight. I believe in learning to feed myself joyfully without consistent overeating. I adopted a lifestyle (The No S Diet) nearly three years ago and the principles are still working after 16% weight loss in stages. I never counted calories, fat grams or anything else except how many meals I had a day. It's not hard maintaining because the skills are the same and it's enjoyable living this way. It's possible I'm maintaining before another loss but it won't be because I start a new diet. - 11/26/2012   4:05:20 PM
  • 50
    Good to know! I lost six lbs and have pretty much maintained that loss (without losing further) since July. I'm OK concerning being slow and steady though. I don't do anything particular to maintain is the interesting thing (I'm working on intuitive eating so I only track exercise and I was already exercising before SP). - 11/26/2012   2:34:30 PM
  • TONIANN45
    49
    I gained back 10 of the 20 pounds that I had lost, but have maintained that loss for several months now. So I guess I didn't realized exactly what I was doing. I'm striving to maintain the 10 pound loss over the holidays, then lose the 10 that I gained. - 11/26/2012   12:02:01 PM
  • 48
    I definitely feel like this is what I've started with. Giving myself grace to re-learn what I had mastered, not focusing on the numbers instead focusing on what it takes to get me full and the nutrition aspect. It's made everything else easier to manage, but I'm still working on it. - 11/25/2012   6:33:21 PM
  • 47
    I would be in! Anyone can lose weight, it is keeping it off that is the hardest! - 11/25/2012   4:17:56 PM
  • 46
    This is exactly what I did. I lost some weight after getting the flu one winter and worked at maintaining it for a year. Maybe too long, but it worked for me. I have now become much more serious about my eating and exercise plan. I am amazed at how well I'm doing. It's awesome. - 11/25/2012   1:27:49 PM
  • 45
    After losing a few pounds when I first joined Sparks last April, all this program has ever allowed me to do is maintain. I fluctuate up a couple of pounds when there are large social requirements - like my 65th birthday this weekend; a Grey Cup party today; a birthday dinner with a granddaughter later this week - but the program always brings me back to a maintenance weight. The only problem is that I really want to weigh about 12 pounds less. This program just won't take me there! Nevertheless, it has helped me in many ways. This article seems to suggest that if I ever do succeed in losing the desired weight, I'll have a greater chance of keeping it off - that at least sounds promising! - 11/25/2012   12:02:07 PM
  • 44
    So what would happen if you targeted losing 10% THEN maintenance, then go at the rest? - 11/25/2012   9:18:04 AM
  • 43
    This is my bane. Thanks for posting the blog. - 11/25/2012   8:17:19 AM
  • 42
    One thing I always found frustrating about WW, for instance, was there was NO information on how to keep it off, once you reached a certain goal, or wanted to take a break from the *loss* while staying at the weight you were at.

    It's not just WW, either. Prevention Mag, for example, also does not address what you do. When I took a nutrition weight loss course at the local YMCA, *they* didn't address how to stay on an even keel with the weight you did lose!

    Is it some sort of mysterious secret? Or is it pretty simple, just add a couple hundred more calories per day onto your daily maintenance diet? - 11/25/2012   3:45:55 AM
  • 41
    Interesting study, and not at all a surprise to me! Not only do I believe you should focus on maintaining your current weight when you start Sparking - meaning, when you begin to make healthy lifestyle choices and learn to sustain those changes - I also believe it's extremely helpful to purposefully stop losing and maintain periodically DURING long-term weight loss.

    Doing this since I've been on Spark has helped me to minimize regaining; which, obviously, I've done every time I've lost weight in the past. Not regaining is JUST as important as losing weight in the first place, or what's the point of all that effort? What I do is: after losing 10# or 15#, I let myself "relax" and get used to the new weight. Otherwise, the pressure to continue losing will build, and I'll sabotage myself and binge right back up the scale...

    Before Spark, I didn't think I would live very long. It wasn't as much my physical condition, as mental and emotional; anxiety and depression seemed a natural existence for me. Spark guided me in making healthy changes, improving my physical being. However, in helping me achieve an emotional stability I've NEVER known, my entire life has truly changed.

    THANK YOU SPARKPEOPLE!!!

    - 11/24/2012   10:32:50 PM
  • 40
    I would love to get off the yoyo bandwagon. My frustration is that I am a slow loser and have to work very hard to lose any weight. If I stop being vigilant I will then quickly regain the lost weight and then some. This has caused a steady weight gain over the last 20 years. I need to learn the maintenance lifestyle and have it be a part of me for good.
    I would love to be part of this! - 11/24/2012   9:22:15 PM
  • 39
    This actually makes sense and after reading it I realized that is exactly what I did...without being in a test group. Even though I weighed more than I wanted to I worked to maintained my weight while we were overseas for two years and was successful. When I decided it was time to lose weight and was ready to commit to it...and with the help of SP tools...it has come off slowly and steadily since I started. I have been amazed actually and this could have been a big contributing factor. Interesting! - 11/24/2012   8:53:00 PM
  • VANANDEL
    38
    Absolutely fascinating! I'm in maintenance and I know how hard that can be. But to have these preliminary results just from switching maintenance and weight loss - Wow!

    I do wonder if the women who did maintenance first and then weight loss, were still more focused on weight loss since they ended the program with that. Did they continue to lose more weight before taking on maintenance again? Hmmm... - 11/24/2012   7:48:39 PM
  • SP_COACH_NANCY
    37
    "These maintenance-first women took the first eight weeks to learn how their body weight fluctuates from day to day and week to week in relationship to sodium intake, fluid intake, hormonal changes, etc."

    When I educated myself that our weight is not a static number...that anything from our diet, to our workouts, hydration and hormones can affect the number on the scale was when I finally let go of the power of the scale in determining my success.

    I wish so many people would understand that losing weight is just a very small piece of the pie in making this a lifestyle. - 11/24/2012   5:18:05 PM
  • 36
    I think this makes great sense. It seems maintenance first is a good way of easing into weight loss mode. After all, you do need to stop gaining first. - 11/24/2012   3:45:43 PM
  • 35
    Three things I have discovered about maintenance:
    1.) I do all the same stuff I did to lose the weight (tracking my food, exercise, plenty of water, portion control) to keep the number on the scale from rising.
    2.) There is not as big a dif in calories from "losing mode" to "maintaining mode" as I had hoped.
    3.) Maintenance is basically just losing and regaining the same 5 lbs over and over. - 11/24/2012   12:22:00 PM
  • 34
    I maintained a 65# weight loss for over five years, and am here to affirm that it is HARD, especially when some major crisis occurs. The thing that finally messed me up was moving, when I could not make maintenance the primary focus of my life because I had too many other worries, and the move itself messed up all my usual good habits. Once knocked off track, I couldn't seem to "find myself" again and get back on. What you are doing now to get it off, you have to do for the rest of your life to keep it off--that is reality--and every major life change is a crisis that can send you rolling back into comfort foods/too busy to exercise obesity. You need to commit now to making healthy eating and exercise a firm until-death lifestyle or backsliding is practically a guarantee. - 11/24/2012   11:42:04 AM
  • 33
    I would love to learn how to maintain. I've been yo-yoing my whole life and I'm 55. When does it stop? At 182, I'm within 3 pounds of my heaviest weight and I'm sick of it! I'm only 5;2"! - 11/24/2012   11:31:58 AM
  • 32
    I had weight loss surgery in 2003 and the nutritionist in the office required all candidates to undergo a 3 month period of weight maintenance/nutrition training. This involved learning how to shop, prepare, and manage meals, eating habits, starting exercise habits, and overall lifestyle changes. You also had to follow up with a support group and nutrition/gym routine that they medically supervised after surgery. I went from 330 to 155 in less than a year. Currently, I maintain that weight, workout daily, and am a healthy eater.

    My mother had the same surgery in 2001 with a different surgeon who didn't require any thing to have the surgery. She also went from 300+ to 175 in less than a year. She has gained about 100 back and has not changed eating or exercise habits at all. - 11/24/2012   10:41:33 AM
  • 31
    I would be willing to try. I definitely know that i can lose the weight. I've done it more than once. However, the maintenance phase I have yet to conquer. sign me up! lol - 11/24/2012   10:39:37 AM
  • 30
    I was actually contemplating doing this on my own, and then read this blog this morning. Ever since I joined SparkPeople, I have been yo'yo'ing, based on just how much of my life I want to give over to the weight loss process. I can definitely relate to that feeling that all the weighing, measuring, tracking, and thinking about food can grow to engulf one's life until that's all you think about. On the other hand, those were the periods when I lost weight. As soon as I stopped doing that, I would rebound so quickly that months of effort would be undone within a few weeks' time. It's not that I didn't know what to do, but rather that I just yearned for a "normal" life where food is concerned. This is such a long struggle for me that I'm not even sure what "normal" is. What if weight loss wasn't all or nothing? I thought that, for myself, it made sense just to normalize my eating and my weight and focus on reasonable fitness levels, and at least see if the yo-yo'ing would stop. It really does make sense to try to learn to maintain first, and I'd definitely volunteer for such a study! - 11/24/2012   9:46:36 AM
  • 29
    In 4 years I haven't found it difficult to maintain my weight loss. I'm a counselor and I believe a big portion of weight loss and maintenance, success or failure, occurs in the mind. I read the articles on the difficulties and I simply chose to go in with a positive attitude. Very often things are only as hard as we make them. :-) - 11/24/2012   9:40:26 AM
  • 28
    I can totally attest to this blog's focus topic!! I have been trying for 9 years or so to lose some extra weight that has kept creeping up on me. Finally this summer I was so fed up with losing some weight, and gaining it back on again after a few months, that I had to make a lifestyle change to also try and prevent tumor regrowths from having had phylloides tumors. That's how I found this site in the first place as a way of tracking JUST my water intake. But when I started doing that, I was curious to see how much I ate on a regular basis, and from there I wanted to see just how many calories I burned to compensate. I was shocked with how far I was off on everything! Before I knew it, I lost weight. I started out being on the scale a lot, fretting about the fluctuations, but once I read through the wealth of information to be had on here, I learned what it took to maintain my weight, rather than focusing on losing it. Accordingly, I dropped more weight, but also toned up my body, and am making smarter choices for everything all-around. So that even on weeks when I can't exercise as much, I have not gained all my weight back! I am much happier today than I was earlier this year, even though I am not at the weight goal I designated for myself. But that's ok, because I still have a couple of months to go to see if I am able to get to that point, and if not, it just means I have to keep maintaining and let my body do what it needs to be, to be healthy, rather than thinner. Trimming up in the process is just a perk! - 11/24/2012   9:32:36 AM
  • 27
    I think its a great plan of attack. I still have weight ot lose but I have been maintaining where i am for a little over a year nowOnce I can figure out teh maintaince part then I will be back for the last 10 to 15 I have to lose If I make through this holiday season in range (140 to 145) then I know I can do it for the long haul. I watch my "skinny" friends to see how they handle their life I have found from them its moderation is the key - 11/24/2012   7:59:59 AM
  • 26
    It's been dawning on me that each long plateau is like a maintenance stage. I lose a chunk of weight - usually something in the 10 lb range - and then stay there forEVER - it's as if my psyche is trying to learn how to live in this new body. I'm uninspired about weight loss, I dance around 2 or 3 pounds - and then something clicks and I am ready to get serious and make it to the next stage. this article sort of gives my unconscious method some validity. Thanks! - 11/24/2012   6:29:10 AM
  • 25
    Yes weight loss is really hard and if I want to reach my goal of being the healthiest I can be, maintaining what I've worked so hard to achieve *is* part of my goal. This is a lifestyle change for the better, not a diet. And maintenance requires constant attention to detail 24/7 - the same as weight loss. In order to stay the course and maintain what I have achieved I will still need to record all the food and beverage that goes into my mouth, track to make sure I'm drinking enough water, and keep up with the exercise. Losing weight is half the work and maintaining that weight loss is the rest. - 11/24/2012   6:20:14 AM
  • SPARK10000
    24
    Thanks for posting the research!
    Sounds like excellent advice for me to use. - 11/24/2012   5:09:40 AM
  • LORAINE1210
    23
    I think it is a fab idea, after all from being a baby we are always told don't try to run before you can, so learning how to maintain your weight first is like learning how you want to walk the rest of your life after you have 'run' the weight off. I am nearly two stone into my weight loss now, but if i had read this article first I might have been tempted to try maintaince first. However I will say that before I started losing weight with SparkPeople, if I got on the scale and had maintained my weight for the week I was over the moon, because i was constantly putting pounds on every week. So yes I would say learn to walk before you can run and it might just help you not only to lose weight more efficently but also to keep it off permanently :) - 11/24/2012   4:22:51 AM
  • JULSJASPER
    22
    Anyone commenting or alluding that its 'easy to maintain' should think about how successful the majority of diets are in the long term.i believe the statistic is 90% of dieters will put the weight back on. This article makes a very interesting point and I myself have been trying maintain between now and new year having lost 45 pounds since March this year. I want to enjoy Xmas festivities but not end up with huge gain, this will also help me understand the REAL issue here, the state of mind to maintain rather than lose. It really DOES need thinking about. In first week I came 'off plan' i gained 2 pound. I am now allowing myself few treat meals but that's it. no more extra snacks because I'm not dieting. - 11/24/2012   3:04:59 AM
  • 21
    I'm not sure there is such a big difference between losing and maintaining as this article suggests. In either phase you have to plan your food, make healthy choices, get enough exercise. The only real difference is that you have a few more calories per day to play with. I would suggest that it's the people who think there IS a big difference who suffer from yoyo dieting. - 11/24/2012   1:26:17 AM
  • 20
    I'm reading "THE SUGAR FIX" by Richard Johnson MD and understand Metabolic Syndrome/Insulin Resistance for the first time, so maintaining won't be a problem once I get to my goal. - 11/24/2012   12:35:42 AM
  • 19
    Ok so I have maintained for a year...the question is...am I ready to try the weightloss again? a question to be answered by my heart and soul then my feet and hands:-) - 11/23/2012   10:24:09 PM
  • 18
    I went on vacation at the end of May and decided to "take the summer off". I started again two weeks ago and was happy to learn that, over the 6 months that I wasn't trying to loose weight, I had neither gained nor lost. The holidays are an especially challenging time for me, so I'm back to tracking and planning and weighing and measuring. Hopefully I'll arrive in January at the same weight I am now, then the REAL work will begin. - 11/23/2012   10:16:58 PM
  • 17
    I maintain the weight I lost more than a year ago. - 11/23/2012   8:20:29 PM
  • 16
    I am in! If they really want more subjects for this sort of testing sign me up! - 11/23/2012   5:28:41 PM

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