Keep losing weight only to regain it? Find out how to make your weight loss stick.
If you've achieved your target weight, well done! But don't undo all the good work by reverting to old habits.
The effects of quick-fix diets often don't last, as many people fall back into old eating and activity habits after the weight is lost. If you find your weight is going back up again, it's time to take action.
How to keep weight off
The key to reaching your ideal weight and keeping the weight off is to make long-term changes to your diet and lifestyle that you can stick to for life.
The following tips are likely to help keep weight off:
- stick to lower-calorie eating – a lower-fat, higher-protein diet has been shown to help maintain weight loss for some people. This could be because protein-rich meals make you feel fuller more quickly, making you less likely to snack between meals.
- plan ahead – maintain your healthier eating habits regardless of changes in your routine, such as eating out, weekends or holidays. By planning ahead, you're less likely to slip up.
- eat breakfast – research shows breakfast can help people control their weight: it can help you avoid getting too hungry and snacking later on.
- stay active – build up your physical activity levels: if you've already been walking regularly, think about walking for longer, or start running.
- watch your weight – weigh yourself regularly so you can keep a close eye on any changes to your weight.
- get support – if you have talked to a health professional about your weight in the past, make sure you go back regularly to get support from them.
- keep it interesting – variety is the spice of life, so if you feel yourself slipping back into your old ways, mix things up a bit: buy a new healthy cookbook, sign up for a healthy cooking course, or try a new activity.
- set yourself goals – these can help motivate you into keeping up your healthy diet and exercise regime. For example, is there a special occasion coming up that you want to feel your best for?
What should I eat now?
As a guide, the average man needs about 2,500 calories and the average woman needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain their weight. If you've been eating a lower-calorie diet and you've now reached a healthy weight, you may want to increase your calorie intake. But do it by small amounts to avoid putting on weight again, and remember to keep active.
More weight to lose?
"When we look at people who lose weight successfully, the lessons are clear," says Dr Andrew Brewster, a GP with a special interest in obesity and weight management.
"A combination of diet changes and changes to their level of physical activity is the best method. The key is making small changes that you can keep for life, rather than drastic changes that you only stick to for a few weeks.
"You don't need to achieve a healthy weight overnight. Losing even a few kilos can make a huge difference to the health of someone who is overweight."
You can check the weight range that's healthy for you by using our healthy weight calculator. Set a realistic target. Give yourself enough time to work towards your goal – the safe rate of weight loss is between 1lb and 2lb (0.5kg and 1kg) a week.
Download the NHS 12-week weight loss guide.
Healthy food swaps
To start, you might decide to swap just one high-calorie snack a day with something healthier. For example, you could have a smoothie or a piece of fruit instead of a morning pastry.
Or you could choose a drink that's lower in fat, sugar or alcohol and therefore contains fewer calories – for example, you could swap a sugary fizzy drink for sparkling water with a slice of lemon.
You can learn more about small, healthy changes to your diet by reading healthy food swaps. On the whole, eating less while maintaining a balanced diet and being more active will keep the weight off.
You can also find lots of information on eating a healthy, balanced diet in Food and diet.
When it comes to physical activity, find ways to fit more movement into your day.
Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 are recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity – such as fast walking or cycling – every week.
If you're new to activity, you should try to build up to this level of exercise gradually. For more information, see Physical activity guidelines for adults.
Being physically active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. People who do regular activity have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and stroke.
Find out more about getting active in Fitness.
Stick to the changes
Once you've identified the lifestyle changes you want to make, give yourself time to make them part of your life.
At some point, the weight loss that results from these changes will stop and your weight will stabilise. But it's important to remember that if you want to maintain your new, healthier weight, you need to stick to the changes.
"This is where many people slip up," says Dr Brewster. "They feel as though the changes they've made 'aren't working any more', and so they go back to old habits. In fact, the changes are working, as they are keeping you at your new weight. If you let go of them, you'll put weight back on.
"Really get those changes set into your lifestyle. Once you've done that and your weight has stayed the same for a while, if you're still not a healthy weight, you can think about another set of small changes.
"That's the step-by-step method that will give you the best chance of achieving a healthy weight long term."