In 2016 Dr Kevin Hall, an expert on metabolism at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institute of Health (USA), published the results of his six-year study of participants from the television show, The Biggest Loser. The findings were so alarming they made the front page of The New York Times™ and the Journal of Obesity. Dr Hall found that all but one of the people he studied regained all of the weight they’d lost or more!

Why? Because a good percentage of the weight they lost was from lean tissue (muscle mass) and muscle mass is directly linked to resting metabolic rate, as this tissue requires more calories to maintain itself. For example research estimates that it requires 13.2 calories a day to maintain 1Kg of muscle, compared to 4.4 calories for fat. That’s 3 times the energy needed at rest.

When lean muscle mass makes up a significant portion of total weight loss, resting metabolic rate takes a nosedive and weight regain is inevitable.

The good news is that achieving lasting weight maintenance is possible especially if you’re building and maintaining your muscle during the process. Unlike the contestants in the Biggest Loser, you can use the following tips to help you succeed at losing and then maintaining your weight loss:

1. Do 20 minutes of whole body strength training twice a week

That’s enough to maintain bone and muscle mass according to a body of scientific literature. In published studies of nearly 3,000 people, twice a week is just as good as three days a week for muscle building and maintenance. Couple this with maintaining a sensible diet that doesn’t put you in a surplus of calories and your body will figure out the rest.

2. Maintain those muscles

As already stated, muscle mass is directly linked to your resting metabolic rate. Having more muscle mass means your resting metabolic rate will be higher. And focusing on building muscle mass through high intensity strength training is not only going to help you maintain your muscle, you’ll keep your metabolism revved up to the tune of an extra 7-13%, even on the days you’re not working out! For weight maintenance, weight training becomes just as, if not more, important as aerobic conditioning.

3. Continue to set goals

Goals can be about new and challenging HIT routines (like a mini HIT strength routine off the back of a 10 minute “Fast Cardio” sprint interval training on a bike), nutrition (like changing up carbohydrate or fat percentages) or entering short fun-run races during the summer months. You might also consider setting goals outside the diet and exercise realm, such as booking an outdoor adventure holiday. When you align with worthwhile personal goals you’ll enjoy the journey as much as achieving them. This in return reduces your production of the stress hormone cortisol, making you more likely to be successful with maintaining your weight.

4. Be both present and intuitive when eating

Being present when you eat means unplug: no emails, Facebook or surfing the web. When you’re present it helps being an intuitive eater. Being an intuitive eater means that you are listening to your body’s signals when it comes to being hungry and full. You eat when you are hungry (not waiting until you are ravenous), and stop when you are full (about 80 percent full), but not stuffed.

5. Keep planning

If you’ve embarked on BodyTech’s reduced calorie eating plan (Clean Eating Plan), one of the principles you’ll have adopted is habitually planning out your week - each HIT workout session, as well as what meals you shop for and prepare. Committing to planning means you’ll be more likely to stick to it and be successful.

6. Commit to your commitments – continue to eat clean

Once you achieve your goal weight, you might find yourself gravitating to some of your old habits when it comes to your diet. A bag of chips, a handful of lollies and an extra glass of wine can really add up quickly. Remember what got you to your goal weight in the first place - a sound eating plan. This is where being present and using intuitive eating really helps; by ditching the refined, processed food and replacing it with real, whole, clean foods or saying no to the second round of wine at the business luncheon.  

7. Stay within 1.5 kilograms of your maintenance weight

While we don’t advocate using the scale to track your body composition, nor do we believe in being slaves to the scale, if you feel you need to track yourself, a once-a-fortnight weigh-in should be enough. Just keep in mind, the scale doesn’t discern between what is fat and muscle gain. However, if the scale indicates more than a 1.5 kilo gain, maybe it’s time to check in with yourself and assess what you’ve been doing differently. Have you’ve been a bit slack with planning ahead? Do you get enough sleep? How’s your stress level? All of these factors and more play a role in weight gain.

8. Setbacks happen

You travel for business or pleasure, attend parties and have holiday gatherings - all of which typically mean an abundance of food is available. Again, have a plan for handling these food environments to your advantage. But if you do slip up and decide to overindulge at the buffet, that’s OK. Learn how to move past it and go right back to your consistent new lifestyle.

9. Don’t confuse hunger for thirst

Next time you find yourself indiscriminately wanting to snack, go drink 250mls of water, or have a hot tea and wait 15 minutes. You might have just solved the problem. However, if you find yourself physically hungry go ahead and eat, preferably whole food or something ‘clean’.

10. Be aware of your stress

Stress plays a big role in weight regain. The main stress hormone is cortisol and when it is chronically high, due to constantly being under stress, it causes your body to become more insulin resistant. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone, so the more you have floating around your bloodstream, the more fat you’re likely to store, especially around your abdominal region. If you find yourself under stress frequently, consider seeking help to get on top of it. Both your mind and body will thank you for it!

11. Sleep!

There is a preponderance of scientific evidence that correlates the role that sleep plays in weight. When you sleep fewer than seven hours per night, there is a disruption in the production of two main hormones that control hunger and fullness. Poor sleep causes your brain to produce more ghrelin, which makes you feel hungrier, and less leptin, which helps make you feel full. So consistent good night sleeps help you stay in balance between these.