How To Prevent Re-Gaining Lost Fat—Forever!

preventregain-buttonjeans-450x388It’s here! You’ve finally reached your fat loss goal after months and months of hard work, good eating habits, and consistent exercise. You relish in your success and you cannot wait to show the world the results of your hard work.

You’re so happy that you begin to celebrate by going out constantly: dinners out during the week, dancing with your friends, parties wherever and whenever you can find them. You’re feeling amazing! But pretty soon, those new clothes you just bought are starting to feel a bit more snug, than you’d like them to, and don’t really complement your body the way they first did.

Then you think to yourself:

“Maybe I shouldn’t have gone out so much, or skipped so many workouts in favor of cocktails with the girls. Maybe I shouldn’t have had all those extra glasses of wine and spent too many nights with too little sleep.”

But you did, and you had a great time. Instead of berating yourself for this behavior, perhaps the experience can provide some insight as to what you could do differently in the future?

What can you do? All you want to do is get back to how you looked and felt, and not have that amazing feeling disappear again.

What was all that hard work worth if you can’t maintain your results of looking and feeling amazing?

Interestingly, the secret to keeping your results is really not much of a secret. Honestly, it’s just as simple as getting back into a regular exercise routine and sticking to it! (And yes, a night of dancing will count!) In fact, researchers have recently shown through meticulous experiments that regular exercise can and will prevent your body from regaining weight lost after months of serious dieting. Of course, it helps even more if you’re also practicing some basic healthy eating habits.

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Let’s focus today on the element of exercise as a weight maintenance tool, because the benefits are oh-so-good!

The Negative Effects of Dieting

When you lose weight through strict dieting, your body tries to fight it in many ways:

  • First, your brain starts telling your body that you’re starving, and that you need to eat more food.
  • The brain also tries to slow down your metabolism so that your body returns to its “comfort weight.”
  • Your fat and muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin, which although is mostly good for overall health, it makes the body more efficient at storing any excess energy (in fat cells) instead of burning it off (in muscle cells).
  • Finally, weight loss and dieting initially suppresses your ability to burn fat while sending extra energy to fat storage.

Highly-restrictive eating is one of the reasons why so many people have such a hard time both losing weight and keeping it off. It also explains why most people could use a bit of help physiologically, psychologically, and biologically when it comes to attaining the physique and the health that they want.

So, once you reach your goal weight, how can you stop your body from gaining it all back? That’s a legitimate fear most people have, and sometimes stops them from even trying in the first place.

Exercise to the Rescue!

Exercise really is a “magic pill”—it’s just one that most people forget to take consistently.

Yet, it’s one of the most effective ways to maintain your results:

  • Regular exercise leads to decreased appetite and increased caloric expenditure, helping you maintain your new, slimmer physique.
  • It also changes the body into a fat-burning machine and helps it store more carbohydrates in your muscles, where they can be used to fuel further exercise sessions.
  • Finally, it can increase muscle tissue and keep fat tissue at bay.

preventregain-allibenchpress-450x388Weight loss researchers from the University of Colorado—Denver, also recently showed that regular exercise after weight loss stopped the body from gaining weight and storing extra fat even during a situation of excess calorie intake! We all know it can be very easy to eat more food than the body really needs, especially after dieting for a long time, but this research shows us that even if we have a few higher-calorie days, or eat at weight maintenance (rather than for weight loss), we won’t regain—as long as we continue moving every day.

Exercise, in this research study, helped the body burn off excess calories ingested, and helped the muscles use more calories to create energy for more movement. Regular exercise, both during weight loss and while in active weight-loss maintenance, also helped prevent some of the compensatory mechanisms that the body undergoes while dieting that thwart fat loss efforts. Overall, if you want to lose weight and keep it off for good, don’t forget the importance of regular exercise.

So what’s best?

For most women, depending on schedule and preferences, three lifting sessions, one to two HIIT sessions, and one to two MIC (moderate intensity cardio) sessions is about right.  It can sound like a lot, but it breaks down to around three to four hours of exercise a week, and these can be combined in different ways to allow two to three full days off from the gym every week. It’s best to still find ways to be active on those “off” days. Whether it’s housework, yard work, walking the dogs, or dancing—it all counts! Not only will you feel better with renewed energy and vigor, but you’ll help your body look better for longer, too. And don’t we all want to feel healthy, attractive, and strong?

What’s Next?

If you’re interested in following a program designed to help you achieve the results you’re looking for in a fun, effective, and safe way, then look no further!

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Additional “Fat Loss” Resources

Steig AJ, Jackman MR, Giles ED, Higgins JA, Johnson GC, Mahan C, Melanson EL, Wyatt HR, Eckel RH, Hill JO, MacLean PS. Exercise reduces appetite and traffics excess nutrients away from energetically efficient pathways of lipid deposition during the early stages of weight regain. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011 Sep;301(3):R656-67. Epub 2011 Jun 29.

About The Author: Cassandra Forsythe, PhD, RD

Cassandra Forsythe, PhD, RD, CSCS, CISSN is a Girls Gone Strong Advisory member and an Assistant Professor at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). She is a mother, entrepreneur, health and fitness enthusiast, and the author of The Modern Woman’s Guide To Good Nutrition. Cass is also on the advisory boards for Women’s Health magazine, and You can learn more about Cass on her website.

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