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Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Weight


There are many valid reasons for losing excess weight, including wanting to fit comfortably into clothing, improving appearance, making activities easier, and improving overall health.  


Data show that most people who lose weight regain it. In some cases, dieters gain back even more weight than they have lost.2 With achieving and maintaining a healthy weight a challenge for more than 70 percent of American adults, what strategies are effective in maintaining long-term weight loss?

Losing weight takes effort and determination,
but maintaining a healthy weight
means adopting life-long dietary and behavioral changes,
including behaviors associated with initial weight loss.3

Strategies for maintaining a healthy weight are:

  • Consume calories based on your age, gender, and activity level
    The key to maintaining a healthy weight is eating the number of calories you burn. As you age, there are several reasons you burn fewer calories overall. First, having less muscle, which happens with aging, means burning fewer calories at rest. In addition, most people are less active as they age. Also, women also tend to burn fewer calories after menopause.4 For these reasons, it is important to adjust the number of calories you consume to accommodate changes associated with aging
  • Be consistent with your diet
    Restricting calories during the week and overindulging on the weekend can lead to weight gain. Being consistent most days of the year and being in a habit of eating balanced, calorie-conscious meals on a regular basis makes it more likely that you will maintain a healthy weight3
  • Begin with breakfast 
    Research shows that regularly eating a balanced breakfast can help increase dopamine levels in the brain and reduce cravings and thoughtless snacking throughout the the day

    Balanced breakfast options include:
    • 3 large eggs, 1 slice whole wheat toast with 1 tablespoon almond butter, and 1 cup fat-free milk
    • 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese, ½ cup of peaches, and 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 teaspoons butter
    • 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 2/3 cup of Kashi GoLean cereal, 1 chopped apple, and 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts
  • Choose high-fiber, low-calorie foods for the majority of what you eat
    Foods high in fiber and water such as vegetables and fruit contain fewer calories for their weight whereas foods high in fat and sugar such as candy, cookies, cakes, potato chips, and fried foods contain more calories.6 For example, 1 medium-size orange contains 70 calories compared with 1 snack-sized 160-calorie package of potato chips
    • Fill half of your plate with vegetables
    • Choose vegetables and fruit more often for snacks to feel satisfied with fewer calories
  • Pare down portions
    Eating smaller portions can help you lose excess weight and maintain a healthy weight.7 In a study of postmenopausal women, participants who routinely measured their portions lost more weight than women who did not measure portions8
    • Smaller servings look larger when they are served with a smaller plate, cup, or bowl and help you feel you are getting more food than if your plate has large empty areas
    • Measure portions using guidelines on Nutrition Facts labels to know exactly how much you’re eating
    • When eating out, order a smaller portion, eat only half of a regular portion, or share an entrée5
  • Keep only healthy foods at home
    Many calorie-conscious people find it easier to stick with their diet plans when they eliminate tempting foods at home and at work9
    • Stock your kitchen with healthy, low-calorie foods such as vegetables, fruit, fat-free milk, fat-free yogurt, lean protein such as turkey and chicken, and whole grain breads and crackers
    • Do not store high-calories foods such as sweets at home
    • Establish a just-say-no policy for eating snacks that coworkers bring to the office
  • Eat at home 
    Restaurant meals tend to be higher in calories and fat than meals you cook at home.10 In addition, you are more likely to choose smaller portions when eating at home
  • Exercise daily
    Ninety percent of National Weight Control Registry members exercise an average of one hour per day.3 Other researchers found that exercising more than 300 minutes per week (about 45 minutes per day) maintained weight loss nearly 3 times more than people who exercised less than 150 minutes per week (about 20 minutes per day).11 

    You can exercise to maintain a healthy weight by:
    • Walking for 15 minutes before work, walking for 15 minutes during lunch, and working out with a 30-minute exercise DVD in the evening
    • Riding an exercise bike for 30 minutes at lunch and engaging in strength training to build muscle for 30 minutes after work several days a week
    • Walk for 20 minutes before or after every meal
  • Weigh yourself regularly
    Weighing yourself can help keep you aware of even slight weight gain such as a pound or 2. Seeing the scale can help encourage you to make immediate adjustments in your diet so that you can return to your ideal weight3
  • Keep a diary 
    Studies show that writing down what you eat is one of the most effective strategies for maintaining a healthy weight11
    • Writing down when you eat, what you eat, where you eat, and how much you eat 
    • Write down when, at what intensity, and for how long you exercise; adjust your meals according to your level of activity
  • Replace food with behavioral counseling to manage your emotions
    Many people find that emotional issues can result in overeating.12 Behavioral counseling can help you understand what's bothering you as well as give you noneating strategies to manage your feelings




1. Weight Control Information Network. Overweight and Obesity Statistics. http://win. Accessed November 1, 2014.
2. Kraschnewski JL et al. Long-term weight loss maintenance in the United States. Int J Obes. 2010;34:1644-1654.
3. Wing R, Phelan S. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(1):222S-225S.
4. Johnston R, Poti J, Popkin B, Kenan WR. Eating and aging: Trends in dietary intake among older American from 1977-2010. J Nutr Health Aging. 2014;18(3):234-242.
5. Hoertel H, Will M, Leidy H. A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs high proten breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese "breakfast skipping," late-adolescent girls. Nutr J. 2014;6(13):80.
6. Rolls BJ. What is the role of portion control in weight management? Int J Obes. 2014;38(1):S1-S8.
7. United States Department of Acriculture (USDA). Choose My Plate. Weight management: Decrease portion sizes. Accessed November 1, 2014.
8. Kong A et al. Self-monitoring and eating-related behaviors associated with 12-month weight loss in postmenopausal overweight-to-obese women. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112(9);1428-1435.
9. United States Acriculture Department (USDA). Choo My Plate. Weight management: Focus on foods you need. Accessed November 1, 2014.
10. Nguyen B, Powel L. The impact of restaurant consumption among US adults. Pub Health Nutr. 2014;17(11):2445-2452.
11.Wadden T et al. Lifestyle modification for obesity. New developments in diet, physical activity, and behavior therapy. Circ. 2012;125(9):1157-1170.
12. Elfhag K, Rossner S. Who succeeds in maintaining weight loss? A conceptual review of factors associated with weight loss maintenance and weight regain. Obes Rev. 2005;6(1):67-85.