Weight loss is in of itself, a grueling process not just for the inexperienced but also for those who have done it before. Once you hit a desired weight, the battle doesn’t end, sadly. You still need to work on staying in a healthy zone long after you “finished”. To help you, I’m going to show you how to maintain weight loss after a low calorie diet.
To maintain weight loss after a low calorie deficit, try following these simple rules. Raise your calories back up at a slow and controlled pace through reverse dieting, create and maintain healthy eating habits, continue to track your eating and weight even if it’s just loosely.
Continue reading for a more detailed answer and for some important tips.
How to maintain weight loss after a low calorie diet
Now I have already mentioned the easy formula to help you maintain weight loss, but to get a good understanding, it is important to explain the process more in depth.
So we will quickly break down reverse dieting, maintaining energy levels, healthy habits, and tracking.
A popular method to return to normal calorie levels after a diet is reverse dieting.
Essentially, when reverse dieting you increase your daily calories at a slow pace. Something like 50 – 100 calories weekly.
The goal is usually to improve metabolism and sometimes even help break through weight loss plateaus.
Now while there has been high support of those effects occurring by big names in the fitness industry, I suspect that they are a result of physiological changes more than physical ones.
This is because there is a significant lack of scientific research on the subject yet so many advocates.
Instead, reverse dieting can help you pace yourself to normal eating levels while also slowly increasing activity.
Extended periods of time in a calorie deficit tend to lower your energy levels, moods and other factors that can affect your decisions.
These choices can be simple things like parking closer or farther to the grocery store. But small tasks like that contribute to your overall energy output in a big way.
To put it simply, imagine you are finishing up a diet where you ate 1500 calories a day. As a result your activity slowed down and you aren’t losing any significant weight.
You are now moving at a level about 1500 calories burned each day.
If you immediately jump back to normal eating, or even above that if you want to try bulking, you can see big swings in weight gain because it will take some time for your daily energy output to return to normal naturally.
Maintain a consistent energy level
Speaking of energy levels, since yours might, unknowingly to you, significantly decrease during a long calorie deficit, it is important to maintain a very consistent activity level each day.
That does not mean you need to be in the gym 24/7 or running 5 miles each morning. Basically you need to have a plan for exercise that you stick to consistently. On top of that, keep track of your daily steps so you can have a good idea of your NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis).
Understanding your energy levels will greatly improve the control you have over your own weight gain and loss.
It is easy to be frustrated when you think everything is being done right in your gym time as well as diet. How much your burn outside of those two areas is just as big of a piece in the weight gain/loss formula.
Maintain Healthy Habits to maintain weight loss after a low calorie diet
During a diet you might find that you restrict yourself alot, for better or for worse.
Once you return to a “normal” routine, naturally you become lenient.
But if you didn’t spend the time to actually develop real healthy habits, your weight loss might as well have been for nothing.
What is going to prepare you for junk food, binge eating, large portion sizes etc.?
Diets may be effective for weight loss, but you were in negative health for a reason. You probably lived a lifestyle that catered to bad choices.
Creating healthy habits that can be maintained long term is astronomically overlooked and downplayed.
If you can focus on doing that, you are already miles ahead of your peers. It will be difficult, that’s why most avoid it.
Think about this, if 90% of diets fail, why would you not try something different from everybody else?
Try a habit journal if you need help.
Finally, you need to remember to keep tracking your health. I’m not suggesting you grab a piece of paper and log your calories and exercise for the rest of your life.
What I mean is to stay on top of just simply knowing how your diet is going and maybe a weekly check in on the scale.
Are you eating balanced meals? Have you noticed you snack a lot more as of late? Do you no longer get 10k steps a day? Things like that are easy to know.
The reason I suggest doing this is so you can truly understand how to maintain weight loss after a low calorie diet.
Visually, it might take too long to realize you have fallen off the wagon, creating another long journey for you to get back to your ideal health.
Tracking where you are allows you to act preemptively, the faster you can make a change the better.
Something like Fitbit makes the process easier for you.
CAN YOU MAINTAIN WEIGHT IN A CALORIE DEFICIT
Of course you might have come across the problem where it just doesn’t seem like your weight is budging down anymore even though you have cut down your calories significantly.
This is very common. The seemingly obvious answer when you want to stop losing weight is just to stay at your current calorie level. Which might make you wonder, can you maintain weight in a calorie deficit?
The short answer is no, you cannot maintain weight in a calorie deficit. By the 1st law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created, only altered. If your body isn’t being fed enough fuel, it can’t magically create more. It will use your stored energy which inevitably leads to weight loss overtime.
So why does it sometimes seem possible?
You aren’t in a calorie deficit
As hard as it might be to hear, the reason you don’t lose weight is probably just because you aren’t in a calorie deficit even though you truly believe so.
Like mentioned before, as you continuously lower your calories, energy levels take a hit. Activities might become harder, and sometimes that means you just don’t move as much throughout the day as before.
Without even knowing it, your calories burned become close to or sometimes even less then the now very small calorie intake you have.
So you could maintain weight in a calorie deficit, but only because that calorie deficit was made for a different situation where you weighed more or perhaps just moved more.
Can I Go Back To Normal Eating After Dieting?
So now the real question to ask yourself is, “Can I go back to normal eating after dieting?”
Well, of course you can go back to normal eating after dieting. The important thing is how you want to define normal eating. If that means continuing bad habits from before, it’s probably a bad idea. Instead, work on making your normal eating become healthy eating.
And how do you do that exactly?
Why you shouldn’t go back to “normal” eating after dieting
Dieting has a bad view.
It is commonly seen as a bad time, yet necessary for those who aren’t happy with the way they look.
Around New Years usually you can see people with 200% motivation giving it their all and seeing cool results.
But then the motivation goes away, the crash dieting is not sustainable, and the depression from strict lifestyle choices sets in. Everyone who achieved something, usually sees weight gain return.
This is because you need to adjust your view of what “Normal eating” is to you.
You should find some kind of enjoyment in making healthier choices, not just have a feeling of commitment.
You can make those happier connections by understanding how healthier foods make you feel or even finding some new tasty meals.
Without those connections, it’s just wasted effort.
Sure you followed Keto for weight loss, it might have been great for you.
You could have followed a youtube channel that makes daily intense 30 minute workouts.
But when you are ready to slow things down you don’t actually tackle any of the issues that cause you to gain weight in the first place.
Those issues likely return and the cycle starts all over again.
I know because that happened to me several times over the years.
Common mistakes to avoid when trying to maintain weight after a low calorie deficit
Being too strict during the dieting phase
Slow down, you might want to get to the end goal quickly, but crash dieting and being too strict on yourself is a quick way to burn out and give up.
Not taking long term health into account
Don’t just focus on the now. If you are motivated , that is great!
Use the motivation to create a healthy routine that you can maintain even when you aren’t motivated, because that might happen quicker than you think.
Focusing too much on the scale
Tracking tools are great, and a nice scale does wonders for getting where you get to go.
If you focus too much on the scale, your mood might just go as much up and down and the numbers do.
Your weight most likely does not go in a straight line in either direction. There are a variety of factors like water weight that create the illusion that you lost or gained weight.
Under or Over exercising
Too much of a good thing can be bad and vice versa.
This is especially true with exercise. If you are pounding your body everyday, you can have stagnated progress, low recovery, bad moods or even worse injuries that slow down months of progress.
On the other side, not exercising at all means you are missing out on an activity that can directly improve your everyday quality of life.
Don’t just wing it.
Tracking even a little bit lets you know if you are heading in the right direction.
And it isn’t as hard as you might think.
A scale takes a minute a week to use. There are also diet apps that make it super easy to see how you are eating with in depth breakdowns.
Not practicing mindful eating
Mindful eating is the process of being present, free of distractions while you have a meal.
Doing so is great for feeling satiated after and to prevent overeating by just simply slowing down.
Not Enough Sleep
Sleep is crucial for health.
A bad night’s sleep can affect your hormonal balance, moods, and the amount of energy you have to go about your day.
Stick to the recommended 7 – 9 hours every night.
It is amazing how many problems adequate sleep can solve.
Relying too much on diet fads
Trendy diets are fun and cool.
You get into groups of people with the same ideas. You get to try something new, and even get some quick results.
But trendy diets can sometimes promote unhealthy habits and are also usually hard to maintain for long.
It’s best to avoid diet fads if you don’t have your other areas of health in check.
drinking the wrong liquids
Finally, really simple, pick the right type of drinks.
There are drinks that have their uses, water is obviously good. Caffeine helps energy before and activity, and smoothies are great for easy meals.
But people don’t tend to make those types of choices. Sugary drinks have an immense amount of calories that have negative effects on your health.
They also aren’t really satiating.
All of these factors contribute to quick weight gains.
How to maintain weight loss after a low calorie diet: Conclusion
Hopefully you learned how to maintain weight loss after a low calorie diet, make sure to come back to this guide from time to time in case you get off track.
Remember that nutrition is just one aspect of your overall health, consider starting a workout routine too!
If you don’t know where to start check out my free foundational beginners workout plan!