Losing kilos is the first step on the path of weight loss. Maintaining weight long-term requires discipline and awareness.
It’s an unlikely analogy, but weight loss success stories are like happy love stories in the way they’re portrayed in today’s media. Just as a love story ends with the couple getting married and living ‘happily ever after’, a weight loss story ends with everyone applauding the individual’s hard work to shed those extra pounds. While the fact is, just like a marriage heralds a new chapter in life that requires commitment and a lot of patience to make it work, maintaining weight loss is a long-term journey that requires you to work on yourself every day. Take your eyes off the ball, get off the wagon, and you can end up right where you started: with the pounds back on. A widely touted estimate is that only 20% of people who have lost weight manage to keep it off for more than a year.
In May 2016, the research journal Obesity published the results of a study conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) in Maryland, USA, on the winners of the eighth season of The Biggest Loser, a popular American reality show that focused on obese participants who had to lose the most pounds to win prize money. The research followed 14 of the 16 participants in 2016, six years after they had participated in the program in 2009. 13 of the 14 participants regained weight in the intervening years. Not only that, four of them weighed more than before the competition.
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Our bodies, as researchers led by Dr. Kevin Hall discovered, have a tendency to fight weight loss. For the contestants, this was reflected in the way their metabolisms slowed significantly after the show and body weight reverted to close to its starting weight in 2009.
A personalized diet and exercise plan.
When it comes to weight loss management, Chitharesh Natesan, a professional bodybuilder and home personal trainer based in Delhi, believes that any loss achieved by following rapid weight loss programs and crash diets is short-lived.
“I see people looking to lose 50-70 pounds in three to four months by following different diets and working out excessively in the gym. I understand that there may be times when you need to do something as rigorous to get fast results, but you should know that you won’t be able to maintain that weight loss for long. It’s not healthy either,” explains Natesan, who won the Mr. Universe title at the 11th World Physique Bodybuilding and Sports Championships in 2019.
So what should be done to keep those hard-fought pounds off for longer, if not forever? Natesan suggests opting for a personalized weight loss management program. His reasoning is simple: No two bodies are the same. “Get a personal trainer to sit down with you to plan a program that takes into account a diet and exercise regimen that will work specifically for your body,” advises Natesan.
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In his two-decade career as a wellness expert with world-leading resorts, Dr. Narendra Shetty has seen many cases of people opting for weight loss programs to lose tens of pounds and gain them back in a few months. That, he says, is mainly because it’s hard for people to replicate the lifestyle followed during retreats in real life. This is also the reason why when she decided to start Kshemavana, a luxury yoga and wellness retreat in Neelasandra, Bangalore, one of the guidelines she set was to ensure that clients who sign up for the 15-day naturopathic program would continue with the recommended diet plan once they returned home. Centered on the principles of naturopathy, Dr. Shetty’s diet plan focuses on ensuring good gut health.
“In naturopathy we believe that the root of almost all diseases is found in the digestive system. Pet saaf hain toh sab kuch saaf hain (If the stomach is clean and healthy, the body is too)”, he says. And so, when it comes to helping his patients stay on the weight loss bandwagon, Dr. Shetty advises them to stick to a diet low in carbs and high in protein and good fats like ghee. “People tend to have the misconception that reducing the amount of food by eliminating a particular food group is the way to go. Instead, it is the quality of the food that they need to focus on,” he says.
To keep the pounds off for a long time, get a personal trainer who can design a training plan specifically for you.
Habits for success
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) was established in 1994 by Rena Wing, Ph.D. from Brown School of Medicine and James O. Hill, Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in the US to investigate the successful maintenance of long-term weight loss. With the universal belief that long-term weight loss is difficult, the study sought to identify and investigate the characteristics of those who achieved it.
The ongoing project has been tracking more than 10,000 people through detailed questionnaires and annual follow-up surveys. Over the years, it has yielded illuminating findings. As the highly publicized study results reveal, the habits of successful weight-loss maintainers include: eating breakfast regularly, engaging in high levels of physical activity for at least an hour a day, eating a diet low in calories and fat, maintaining a consistent eating pattern on weekdays and weekends, and weight self-management.
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Anirrban Mukherjii, general manager of Reliance Retail in Bangalore, is not involved in the NWCR study, but these were, amazingly, some of the steps he took to drop from 120kg to 77kg last year. Echoing Natesan’s advice to get a personalized plan, Mukherjii, once she decided to jump on the weight loss bandwagon, signed up with a local gym in her neighborhood and got a trainer to plan her exercise regimen. Next, he worked with a nutritionist to come up with a diet plan. And then, starting in September 2022, he began diligently self-monitoring his weight, recording the numbers on his phone every day.
Today, having reached his ideal weight range, Mukherjii can go easy but he doesn’t want to. Instead, he continues his daily routine of hitting the gym in the morning before work, ending the day with 18,000 steps. She works out while traveling for work and also on vacation.
The motivation to keep showing up, Mukherjii says, comes from internal validation. “As a high achiever at work, there was a time when he used to place a lot of importance on external validation. When I didn’t get that at my workplace, it acted as a trigger for me to pack on the pounds. Today, I understand that my job can’t always make me appreciated, but by starting my day with a workout routine, I know I’ve introduced myself. And that’s enough, ”he explains.
Mukherjii says that self-awareness, kindness and patience towards oneself are vitally important while one is in the process of managing weight loss. “You have to know the triggers that can cause you to spiral down so that when a situation like this arises, you know what not to do,” he says before sharing candidly: “I still feel fat in the head, and on some days, I have to consciously remind myself that my shirt size has dropped from 4XL to L. It will take a while for my mind to accept my current size, but looking back on my journey here, I know I’ll get there, slowly but surely.”
How to stay on track
Have a diet and exercise plan tailored to your body.
weigh yourself regularly
Eat a healthy diet that does not eliminate any nutrients.
Make weight loss maintenance an ongoing goal, not a one-time goal
Don’t Make External Validation Your Weight Loss Motivation
Validate yourself and show yourself consistently
Be kind and patient with yourself
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