Coach Nancy's 6 Keys to Weight Loss Maintenance

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I was one of those people who spent over half my life dieting. Depending on what was going on in my life I was either 'on' a diet or 'off' a diet. Sadly dieting was a way of life for me. But that all changed on February 9, 2005, the day I began my final journey to a healthier me. I was determined to make this a lifestyle and not just a quick means to get the weight off only to find myself back to square one in just a few short months.

I often said that losing weight was the easy part for me as I had done so a number of times in the past and had become quite the expert of famine, soon followed by feasting once I reached my weight loss destination. However when it came to keeping the weight off, that was the bigger of the two challenges and one that I failed at for well over 30 years. I used to tell my girlfriends that when it came to losing weight I was the Queen of Weight Loss, but the Joker in Weight Maintenance.

In the past once I reached my goal weight it did not take me long to return to my old ways. It was amazing how quickly I fell back so easily to my old ways. In my frustration I would throw in the towel only to vow to do it the 'right' way the next time. I may be a slow learner, but one thing I can say, I vowed to never give up my quest to conquer the diet beast. For me taking the focus off my weight and placing it on my health was the catalyst that changed my whole perspective. I had to realize that my weight alone did not determine my health or fitness, nor did it measure my self-worth. So by giving up the power the scale held over me for more than half my life I was finally able to break away from the constraints of living by a number.

It has been over 3 1/2 years since I reached my goal weight and if the statics from the National Weight Control Registry stand true, "individuals who had kept their weight off for 2 years or more had markedly increased odds of continuing to maintain their weight over the following year" I have hope that this is true for me as well.

So for those of you who have reached your weight loss goal, I hope you will share with others your success to keeping the weight off. In the mean time I have listed my six keys to helping me maintain my weight loss and I hope they will help you as well.
  • Have a goal weight range
This was a tip I received from renowned Sports Registered Dietitian Nancy Clark when I attended her workshop a few years ago. She stated that our body's weight will fluctuate throughout the day and week because of the natural shift  in fluid from so many different factors.
It isn't the single number that determines our weight success, but the trend of our weight over a period of time. If the number trends consistently high week after week then I may need to be a little more vigilant with my nutrition and workouts. Or if my clothes become a little more snug then it is time to go back to what I know works and that is tracking my nutrition and keeping my activity level high.
This daily swing was once a big source of my frustration and could make or break my mood by just a single action of stepping on the scale. If I had a great week working out and eating well and the number was up, it was devastating. However when I had a not so great week and the number was down I was left in a state of confusion. So having a range of 2-3 pounds either side of my goal weight has allowed me to deal with the daily fluctuation of my weight.
  • Track your nutrition a couple times  a week
As studies have shown, those who track their nutrition lose twice as much weight as those who don't, therefore, making this one of the most powerful tools in our weight maitenance arsenals. Three and a half years later I still track my nutrition a few times a week just to make sure I am consuming the proper nutrients, especially protein and healthy fats, which help facilitate muscle repair and recovery. By tracking my nutrition it also keeps me mindful as to my portion size and as well as allowing me to making minor adjustments in my calorie intake based on my current activity schedule.
  • Keep active
Committing myself to 45 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week has allowed me to keep the weight off, but it also helps me deal with the stress in my life which in the past would be the time I would turn to food for comfort. I also strive to be more active throughout the day. These small pockets of activity are a wonderful way to burn extra calories even when we don't track them. Activities such as taking the stairs, getting up and moving during commercials, even setting a timer by my computer forcing me to get up every hour can do wonders in keeping my weight down.
  • Keep drinking your water
On January 1st I will celebrate my three year anniversary of being Diet Coke free, a habit I never thought I would break. Even though it was quite difficult in the beginning to give up this habit, I now find water to be a perfect beverage for me.
  • Make others aware of your goals
One of the best ways to keep me accountable is making others aware of my goals. This way I have others to turn to when I find my passion for running or going to the gym fading.  It is amazing what a little outside motivation can do to keep you on track.
  • Join the National Weight Control Registry
By  joining the National Weight Control Registry in 2009, I knew that if  I was accepted I would have to be accountable to someone else besides  me.
To qualify you must have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained that loss for at least a year. If you meet the criteria and elect to join the NWCR, you will be sent a very extensive questionnaire regarding your weight loss history and measures you are taking to keep the weight off. Then periodically you are sent follow up surveys as to how well you are doing. It is a great tool for accountability.
A few weeks ago I heard a spokeswoman from the National Weight Control Registry being interviewed and when she was asked what the key to long-term weight loss success was, she stated that it was a "long-tem maintenance of behavior."  Hearing those words were precisely what has allowed me to be free from dieting. In order to achieve a healthy life, you have to LIVE a healthy lifestyle. This is something that takes time and perseverance, but something we can all achieve when we focus on the overall picture of health and fitness and not just a number on the scale. It's about changing the way we view our journey.

Have you met your goal weight and if so, what are some measures you have in place to maintain your weight loss? Have you joined the National Weight Control Registry and if not, would that be something you would consider doing?

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PLCHAPPELL 7/12/2020
Good tips Report
MJ7DM33 8/27/2019
Thanks! Report
I hadn’t heard of the NWCR before. Thank you! Report
thank you Report
Thanks! Report
Interesting Report
Great article and as a 5 year + maintainer it is always good to read these tips that work. I do track every day as I know that works for me. Also in the NWCR and that is a real boost.
Another one is being on Spark. One more motivation to stay at goal is show others that it is being done by people and we don't have to regain the weight we lost.
We can all do it. Report
Thanks! Report
Great article Report
have reached my goal once again! Is there a specific program that SP offers to help up stay at goal? Report
thanks Report
I needed this article. Report
good article Report
Very helpful. Report
Thanks for the info. I lost 40 lbs, but that was a bit too much. I tried to put 5 lbs. on and it turned into 10! Now, working on losing it once again. So happy to have Sparkpeople to help! Report
I didn't know about the National Weight Control Registry. I'm going to look into that. I've been in maintenance for many years. I don't know which was easier, losing the weight or maintaining - both take work and consistency. Because I've been in maintenance for so long, I know that I can maintain my health (and weight). And I know it's worth it! Report
I have never heard of the National Weight Control Registry. Thanks! Report
In my seventh month of maintenance and I'm doing all the right things! One of the best is keeping active and accountable in my At Goal and Maintaining SparkTeam! My team mambers have been the best supporters!
I'll sign up as soon as I reach my year! Report
Another great article Nancy. I'm looking forward to getting to maintenance. I gave up dieting years ago and when I joined Spark it was to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Report
Thank You for your fantastic Blog. I enjoyed it very much. A lot of good information in it. Please keep it up. God bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Most folks have lost weight (over and over), but maintaining is often overlooked. After all, our goal isn't just to get to a healthy state, it's to live there. :)

I find that maintaining is a whole different kind of challenge, but so worth it!
The "At Goal & Maintaining" group has been instrumental to my maintenance (Thanks, gang!! :D ).

Keep up the great work, SparkPeople! Report
Thanks for posting on this subject I haven't joined National Weight Control Registry I have only been at my goal weight for 6 months now I'm still tryingto figure this all out Report
I am just in that "scary" phase of trying to learn to maintain. I got to my weight goal this summer and have fluctuated a bit. I keep justifying that a few pounds here and there are ok and I look better. I don't know if I'm just doing that to make the gain ok or not. Trying to find a good spot for me and struggling with it. I've never maintained before but like you, find losing to be the easy part. Report
Thank you for addressing maintenance. It is too often overlooked.

I am a big fan of the NWCR. They've written some fantastic papers summarizing the aggregated wisdom of the maintainers they research.

While it's helpful to hear the strategies of individuals like you, and NELLJONES (who has maintained for 40 years), I like most the scientific research that tells us what the vast majority do to succeed. I prefer scientific evidence-based advice over personal opinions.

Here is a column I once wrote, summarizing what the NWCR says are the best predictors and behaviors of maintenance:

In the At Goal and Maintaining team
we're working on integrating those principles.

Our "Team Goals" are in line with them, we run maintenance challenges, and we also celebrate maintenance anniversaries. We do whatever we can to keep maintainers actively engaged with the process and each other.

- The likelihood of regaining weight when you reach goal is 80% - 95%.
- When you've maintained for 2 years the likelihood of regain drops to 50%.
- When you've maintained for 5 years the likelihood of regain drops to 27%

I'd love someday to see us as a group beat those depressing statistics. I really believe it can be done. It just takes building the tools and awareness to keep people involved.

So, to that end, keep spreading the word about maintenance, and rockin' your own maintenance!

:-) Report
Great information. Since 95% of people regain all the weight within five years, the registery sound interesting Report
i just signed up for the weight loss registry because of this great blog. thanks! Report
Loved this article! I have maintained for 3 years now. I WILL check out the NWCR. Sounds like accountability I desire and need. I find myself in this journey on my own (well except for Spark People!) My husband is obese and so are my closest friends. The things that have kept me on track is 1. Going back and weighing in at WW monthly. 2. Walking (at least) 10,000 steps a day. 3. And my personal mantra "Who's in charge here?! I have to ask myself this mulitiple times when I find my "friends" tempting me with forbidden delacacies. I have lost 40 pounds and have gone from 3 blood pressure meds down to 1! Lord willing, I won't go back! Thanks for your encouragement! Report
I've reached my goal weight..sadly, I've reached my goal weight at least 4 different times!! Right now, I'm working on losing the same 20 pounds yet again
:( I really hoping to learn from my mistakes this time. Report
Great blog... going to check out National Weight Control Registry. Report
Great article and very inspiring and helpful comments. I am still aspiring to the maintenance phase. . .have been dealing with roadblocks and issues. . .slogging along, learning all the while, and today reading this article realized that I have made progress in fitness, awareness, attitude, and confidence . Many kernels of motivation in this blog for me, hooray! Someday I'll be signing up as a "maintainer!" Report
Yes I have lost the weight and I think you nailed it on the ways to keep it off!
I just signed up at NWCR. I had never heard of it. Report
LOVE the part from NWCR that says," Individuals who had kept their weight of for 2 years or more had markedly increased odds of continuing to maintain their weight over the following year." That gives me hope. Now if I can just get to that 2-year mark! I'm at 7 months now....and counting! Report
As a two and a half year member of the NWCR, I have never had any pressure on me to keep "some self-reported ideals/benchmarks—particularly with fitness strategies".. I do have to send in surveys periodically but they are basic questions as to my lifestyle and how I am doing (ie: Do I eat breakfast? How much exercise do I do per day? Week) nothing I deem that goes against my betterment and the betterment of others. I have even allowed my doctor to release any medical information they feel is pertinent to their research.

It may not be information others want to share, and that is a choice, but I believe we have an epidemic of obesity in this country and if it helps others, I do not see harm in sharing what has worked for me.

Coach Nancy Report
Every pointer is great; however, I disagree with joining the National Weight Control Registry. Even my sister (a lifetime—and proselytizing—Weight Watchers member) did not join, and she once or twice had 30 pounds to lose, and kept it off for decades at a time ... As far as my case, I am far more averse to being a guinea pig than she is (she has participated in medical studies)... She will not make her life strategies available to that extent ... [and there's not much going on in that realm, except she is a firm believer in nutritional supplementation]

I have read the Debra's Just Maintaining (now a defunct) blog - was even more turned off against it ... as a member of NWCR herself, she claims the scientists at NWCR do inadequate empirical and experimental research ... but, at the same time, place a lot of pressure on their members to keep up some sort of self-reported ideals/benchmarks—particularly with fitness strategies—that have to change over time (because over time, some things just can't help but change) ...

SparkPeople in itself is a non-medical alternative to the NWCR. And it's a lot more fun ... wish my sister would have joined ....

Reading this and seeing the mention of the National Weight Control Registry made me remember reading about the National Weight Control Registry years and years ago, and at that time I thought it would be neat to join it. But... I didn't know one could join after losing as few as 30 pounds!? I had lost 30 pounds in high school during my sophomore year and basically kept it off until I went away to college. Too late to wonder if I would have realized the accountability aspect of it that you brought up, but it occurs to me that I could make that one of my goals? rewards? for future weight loss.

I love the statement "A long-term maintenance of behavior", as that surely is something I haven't been doing, but would need to do. Report
Wonderful writing, I have struggled with maintenance in the past and I wanted to see what you have to say. It is definitely about your behavior and awareness of what you are doing. Thanks for sharing and I just may join that registry someday! Report
I am about 6 pounds away from my goal weight. I would love to join the NWCR - I've lost 30lbs, but haven't maintained for a year yet... maybe next year I'll join. Report
It's also its own reward to do the NWCR survey every year and see that you HAVE managed to keep weight off from year to year, if not continue to lose... Report
It's been two years this month since I hit my goal weight, losing a total of 80lbs. Since then I have been struggling to get back to that number. I'm also struggling with what all of this means for me. You know how active I am and how much I train, so I'm trying to find that balance between the number on the scale and my optimum fitness level. Thank you for this very timely blog! Report
I have been on a plateau for 15 months now. I very rarely wiegh myself. I eat within my calorie range and I exercise a lot almost daily. I always do some.
I used to get infuritaed by this BUT THE FOCUS HAS CHANGED,.
Now I tell people I am NOT ON A DIET, I just eat with better portion control and never any junk food. I cook almost every meal we eat from scratch. I have the time to get that done, many do not.
THE GREAT PART OF THIS IS. I am diabetic with a normal blood sugar reading daily WooHoo off medications and intend to stay that way,
I have lost 50 pounds over the last 2 plus years 36 of them with Spark.
I am off Blood pressure meds too and I simply tell people I finally have learned to use portion control. I have always eaten healthy no candy not much junk food even for the children, Too cheap to buy SODA I did do Kool aid and add my own sugar. I stll have triglyceride issues but they are taking a bit longer but getting there. Cholesterol is there already. I am living on maintenance and monitor by my clothes. I wore size 22 ,now I buy 16 and I even got in to a 14 it had to run big.
So I guess I will just ENJOY feeling this great and living well with portion control not DIET. Thanks coach for a very good read Pat in Maine. . Report
So much in here that I can easily relate to Nancy. Great blog!
Great advice!! It was two years ago Thanksgiving that I reached my goal weight! And I've kept it off. Maintaining has been the hard part. I also had to get used to the fluctuation and realize it was natural and not to freak out.

I still track and exercise and drink water. I have pie at Thanksgiving and cake on my birthday but it's not a weekly occurrence. It's a splurge and I'm right back to my healthy ways the next day.

It's a lifestyle it's not a diet. I'm not on or off the preverbal diet wagon.... I'm Driving It! Report
I've been maintaining for 4 years now and been a member of the NWCR for 3 years. In fact I weigh exactly the same today as I did on this day 2 years ago. Maintenance is a lot tougher than losing in my opinion because you don't have that single minded focus of making that scale move down or the rewarding feeling when it does. Exercising for me has become a habit and making good food choices has as well. Where I struggle is portion control. I find I have to track a couple times a week just to remind myself of portion sizes, etc.
I think what people need to remember about a "lifestyle" change is that whatever you do to lose the weight now is what you will have to continue to do the rest of your life to maintain that loss. Report
Nancy, I definitely agree with you... though I am not doing so well at STAYING in my range (working to get back there right now). I am also joined the Registry and find that it helps with reminding me that I need to stay on track, not just for me, but for SCIENCE! : )

The one place I probably drop the ball is on the weekly tracking. I just find that I loathe tracking, but also that my intuitive "I know how much I can eat" monitor sometimes needs recalibrating! Report
I'm still working on losing, thanks for this article as I also need to develop skills to maintain. Report
Joining the NWCR sounds like a great idea! I look forward to the time when I'll be able to do this!!!! Report
This is such a great list of tips to promote health and fitness success. I, too, have lost 60 pounds and kept it off for 5 years. I think I'll look into the National Weight Control Registry. When I joined Spark in July, I thought I had more than 6 lbs to lose. After several months, I realized that my weight was only a symptom of my overall health.

In admiration,
Leslie Report
Congrats to you and thank you so much for the blog. I like the way you summed it up, great term. I've been in maintenance for a little over a year, I plan to make that 2 year mark and many more!

Congrats!! Report
yea for Coach Nancy!! love the blog.... love the term long term maintenance of behavior! You are a success story! Report