Are you struggling with weight regain after you had lost weight? Here is a specific action plan for how to manage if you’ve regained weight you had previously lost.
Whether you have regained a few pounds that you had previously lost, 40, 50 or more pounds, or 100 pounds or more, please know you are not alone. Many of us regain weight during our weight loss process. You can lose weight again and get to a goal weight that is healthy for you.
- Regaining Weight After Dieting: Why Is It So Easy to Regain Weight?
- 5 Step Action Plan When You Regain Weight
- 1. Accept your current weight.
- 2. Maintain your current weight first.
- 3. Reality check your desired goal weight.
- 4. Use Your Wisdom to Create a Personalized Weight Loss Strategy
- 5. Begin a new weight loss journey.
Regaining Weight After Dieting: Why Is It So Easy to Regain Weight?
As someone who has lost a significant amount of weight, I know there is no heartbreak quite like weight regain. While I have now been maintaining my 100+ weight loss for almost two decades, before my final successful attempt, I lost 40-50 pounds multiple times.
Each time I regained weight, I added additional pounds. I ended up heavier than ever, not to mention depressed, overwhelmed, and feeling like a failure.
I’ve worked with hundreds of women through this website, weight loss coaching, and members of our Faithful Finish Lines program. Most have regained weight they lost at different times.
If you are struggling with the pain of weight regain, know that you are not alone.
Weight loss in today’s culture is not easy. We are surrounded by an almost endless supply of delicious food that is everywhere we turn.
Much of our current food supply is highly calorie dense, so it’s easy to quickly take in a large amount of calories before your body senses that you are full. Food manufacturers spend millions of dollars creating foods that are meant to stimulate your appetite and drive you into purchasing and eating more food than your body needs.
When you gain weight back, it’s tempting to beat yourself up. You think you are lazy, stuck or lacking in self-control. None of this is true.
You are living in a time in history when it’s challenging to have a healthy body weight. (Keep in mind that numbers are quickly heading to where half of all Americans are overweight. You are not alone in your struggles.)
Yet there is hope. While it’s not easy, maintaining a healthy body weight is possible. If I can do it, you can do it, too.
Each time you attempt to lose weight, you learn new things. Put those lessons to work, and let’s do this together by following the steps below.
5 Step Action Plan When You Regain Weight
Here is a realistic step-by-step plan to take when you have regained weight and want to lose it again:
- Accept your current weight.
- Maintain your current weight first.
- Reality check your desired goal weight.
- Create a weight loss strategy with wisdom you’ve gained.
- Begin a fresh weight loss journey.
1. Accept your current weight.
When people contact me about weight they have regained, they feel…
- Panic – They want to get these pounds off immediately. They want the weight gone and they want it gone yesterday.
- Dread – They feel like they are back to the drawing board and starting back at square one.
- Shame & embarrassment – They hate facing friends and family (especially people they haven’t seen in awhile) who are going to see that they aren’t as thin as they used to be.
- Fear – They wonder if they will even be able to lose the weight again. They worry there is something wrong with their metabolism, or maybe they’ve messed up their body too much with yo-yo dieting.
- Exhaustion – The thought of losing weight again is totally overwhelming.
All of these feelings are totally understandable. Weight loss is hard work. Our culture (often wrongly) judges people by their weight and the way their body looks.
Never Argue with Reality
There is no point in arguing with reality. What you weigh today is what you weigh right now. I’m not saying you need to like it, or that you always need to be at this weight. What I’m saying is, accept that this is the amount of pounds you carry on your body at this moment.
Weight Problems are Denial Problems
An important part of dealing with weight regain is coming out of denial. If you have a weight problem, you have a denial problem.
You didn’t regain the weight in one day, so somewhere along the line there was something you stopped paying attention to. Now it’s time to get honest about that.
- Did you stop tracking your food?
- Did you stop measuring out portions?
- Did you stop paying attention to calories or points?
- Did you stop weighing in regularly?
- Did you stop attending a program that was helping you because you thought you could do it on your own?
- Did you lose the accountability of a friend or workout partner?
I’ve yet to find a person who was tracking daily, measuring portions, and weighing in regularly who regained all the weight they had lost.
You didn’t gain it in a day, and you won’t re-lose it in a day, so take the important time to think through these questions.
Stop the Panic
Before you can create a logical, realistic plan to start losing weight again, you must stop the panic. Here’s why.
Picture this. You step on the scale and see that you’ve regained a significant amount of weight. You knew it would be bad news, but you had no idea it would be this bad.
You panic. “Oh my gosh,” you think. I have got to get these pounds off NOW.”
You go into full-on diet mode.
You throw out the chips, candy, and pretzels. You run to the store to stock up on plain grilled chicken breast and salad mix (no dressing).
Yet how long does that last? In only a few days, you are half-starved. This only leads to binging, night-time overeating or weekend food mistakes.
Your body has biological mechanisms in place to keep you from starvation. When you overly restrict, you will binge later.
2. Maintain your current weight first.
When I regain any amount of weight (whether it’s a pound or two or more), my first step is to focus on maintaining my current weight.
I know, I know, you don’t want to be at your current weight, but hear me out.
Rather than jumping into frenetic diet activity, take a pause to gather your wits and handle the situation the smart way. Do that by taking an intentional diet break and focus on maintaining.
You’ve been at this weight for awhile. Taking a short pause isn’t going to do any harm.
How to Take a Maintenance Break During Weight Loss
How long should you maintain your current weight? That depends. If you just regained a few pounds, a week is enough. If you have regained a large amount of weight, perhaps a few weeks would be most helpful.
Click here for details on how to learn to maintain your current weight.
3. Reality check your desired goal weight.
Do you have a dream weight that you cling to? This could be your goal weight or a lower weight that you achieved during a previous weight loss attempt. Maybe it’s what you weighed on your wedding day or before you had kids.
When you look back at a previous weight, it’s important that you don’t eulogize it. Just like you tend to remember and speak only about the good parts when someone has died, you do the same thing with previous body weights.
Do you find yourself saying things like…
- I remember when I wore those jeans.
- If only I could get back to when I was a size 10.
- I looked so great on that vacation.
The trouble is, you downplay or conveniently forget the pain you experienced to be at that lower weight. Were you also giving up carbs, going hungry, or avoiding parties for fear of eating junk food? Were you spending hours outside running or at the gym?
If life was so great at your ideal weight, why aren’t you still there? Here’s what I believe. Life wasn’t all sunshine and roses at your previous weight because aspects of what you were doing are obviously not realistic now.
Crisis-Proof Your Weight Loss
Many people regain weight when crisis hits. They move or change jobs, a family member gets sick or other life stress hits.
This is understandable, but it’s important to recognize that lasting weight loss means keeping up your healthy habits during times of stress. You might not keep eat ideally, but you have to maintain calorie balance.
During my almost two decades of weight maintenance, I’ve lost a parent, moved across the country, battled significant health issues personally, and am parenting children with extreme behavior challenges. If my healthy habits were not solid, I would be back to 250+ pounds.
Click here for more help on how to crisis-proof your weight loss.
How to Choose the Right Goal Weight
For those of us with life-long weight issues, choosing a goal weight is tricky. Heck, the last time I was at the weight I am now, I was in 5th or 6th grade. Before this final weight loss, I had never been a healthy weight as an adult. I came into adulthood at over 200 pounds, so I really didn’t know what was realistic for my body.
Is it possible that your dream weight is unrealistic? Only you can decide what is worth the effort to sustain. Here are some questions to consider.
- Can you give your body adequate nourishment at your dream weight?
- Can you be full and satisfied?
- Can you maintain your goal weight without the tasks of weight loss taking over your life?
Click here for more help on choosing a realistic goal weight.
4. Use Your Wisdom to Create a Personalized Weight Loss Strategy
You might feel like a failure because you’ve regained weight, but I encourage you to reframe your thinking.
There is no failing at weight loss unless you give up and quit.
Each time you attempt to lose weight, you learn new things about yourself and what works for your unique body.
How to Develop an Action Plan
Ask yourself these questions:
- When you were successful with weight loss in the past, what was working? Consider programs, tracking, specific foods to eat or avoid, timing of meals, managing trigger foods, eating out, socializing, and exercise.
- How can you keep yourself accountable? Are things like regular weigh-ins, having a workout buddy or accountability partner, paying for a membership, or setting a specific goal helpful for you?
- What helps you stay motivated for the long haul? Consider strategies like rewarding yourself for weight you’ve lost, focusing on your big why, seeing health improvements, and honoring God with your food choices.
- What roadblocks might come up, and how will you manage them? What made you quit last time? Life stresses and crisis never end. How will you deal with those?
- What is realistic? Something about your previous plan was unrealistic or you wouldn’t have gained back the weight. In what ways do you need to adjust your expectations? Do you need to include more treats and splurges? Were you under-eating (which leads to binging)? Was your goal weight unrealistic?
5. Begin a new weight loss journey.
Once you’ve thought through these questions, now you are ready to create an action plan that fits you well.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparing yourself to anyone – including your former self – is a road to misery.
As you begin this new weight loss plan, choose today what you will choose for a lifetime. There’s no point in implementing anything for short term weight loss because you’ll just regain the weight when you stop doing it. Instead, make realistic changes that will last.
Long-term Weight Loss Success – My 100 Pound Weight Loss Before & After
I’ve been overweight since I was a toddler, and I’ve lost and regained weight many times in my lifetime.
Click here to read more about how I kept the weight loss going this final time and how I maintain my weight loss now.
Weight Regain After Weight Loss Surgery (WLS)
I did not have bariatric surgery, but I did consider it. I’m not opposed to surgery as a tool. Weight loss is tough no matter how you do it, and if surgery is what you need then I fully support you in that decision.
Weight regain is common after gastric bypass, bariatric surgery, sleeve, or VGS. During the first year after surgery, most people lose a significant amount of weight because the stomach is very small. They get sick if they attempt to overeat.
During the second year, most patients regain some weight. Their stomach stretches and they are able to eat more food than they did during the first year.
While most people regain some weight after surgery, they are still at a lower weight than before the surgery.
Do 95% of People Regain Weight After Dieting?
No. This statistic is based on outdated information from a small research study in the 1950s. While it’s true that many people regain weight, there are also those who keep the weight off or improve important health markers.
Remember that nothing magical happens at your goal weight. Don’t do anything to lose weight that you can’t keep doing forever.
As we all learned from watching those on The Bigger Loser TV show who regained most or all of the weight they lost, the more drastic and extreme the weight loss methods, the more likely that weight regain will happen.
Create healthy habits and stack them on top of each other. Then you will be set up for lifelong success.
Aija Vigante says
Thanks a lot for posting inspirational content.
I’ve tried many diet as many of us do. What I’m always struggling to find is a simple diet that doesn’t include long and expensive grocery shopping list as well as simple and quick recipes. I’m a mum of 4 and work full time. Any suggestions? Many thanks! God bless.
Have you tried the Holy Mess 3 day diet? It’s simple foods and hundreds of people have used the meal plan and loved it! Many go on to use the recipes again and again. It’s free to download.
Linda Reynhout says
This quote from you: “Comparing yourself to anyone – including your former self – is a road to misery.” really resonated with me. I am constantly looking at my former successes on Weight Watchers – I still even have the old weigh-in record books that show my losses (plus gains). …So, I like the idea of developing a strategy, esp. looking at roadblocks and being realistic about certain foods. I know that I need to plan my meals. I suspect that I believe I’m doing that, only to discover that I’m suddenly eating something different than planned. This is a life-long learning process! I know I need to be patient with myself and all I am learning about myself and my eating habits. Lots of changes ahead! (Thanks for this post. The link popped up in my email today after I had weighed in with a .4 gain. Any gain is going in the wrong direction!)
Thanks for sharing. I can relate to so much of what you shared. What you said about “thinking” you are planning resonated with me. Have you tried pre-tracking? That’s tracking the day before for what you will eat the following day. I do this all the time now, and sometimes I challenge myself to follow my pre-plan exactly. If you are making a lot of changes the day of, that says maybe you aren’t planning as much as you think and you are giving in to food cravings. That’s what the process has taught me.
Susan Palermo says
Hi Sara! I followed your site for along time! Along with going to WW meetings! I became a WW Lifetime member, But, my life style changed so I no longer could attend meetings,and not attending meetings they take money out! I also am dealing with some health issues. But one blessing is I still teach fitness classes! Back a couple years ago I had to start taking thyroid meds, it was so easy to lose the weight once I started them, but now it’s been awhile and not easy anymore! I have gained at least 10 pds back, and even though I don’t think I am totally out of control, I can tell tummy is starting to bulge out! Thank you so much for sticking with your ministry of helping out! God Bless