Initial weight loss is often only half the battle won. For many, the real struggle begins when it comes to preventing weight regain and maintaining a healthy weight.
There has been limited research into the lifestyle habits that play a part in weight regain. This begs the question – are there habits that are associated with weight regain? And if so, does that suggest that focusing on these habits could set you up for success with weight maintenance?
Healthy habits around diet and physical activity are the cornerstones of maintaining a healthy weight. Although many people who are overweight or obese lose weight successfully, most will regain that weight over time.
Regaining weight may be partly due to behavioural regression, or shifts towards lifestyle habits that promote weight gain. But developing and maintaining healthy habits could help to counteract this regression.
A previous study found that certain lifestyle habits were associated with greater recent intentional weight loss. But as weight loss habits could differ from those associated with weight regain, the researchers conducted a secondary analysis to explore habits that were linked to greater weight regain.
An analysis of a randomised clinical trial was designed to identify the dietary and physical activity habits associated with 6 month and 24-month weight regain in participants of a weight loss maintenance trial.
The initial 24-month trial randomised adults with recent intentional weight loss of ≥5% into one of two intervention groups. Both groups received access to lifestyle tracking tools and education for the duration of the study. One group also received additional individual health coaching to support their efforts.
Surveys were used to measure dietary habits, physical activity and sedentary behaviour.
For the purpose of the analysis, these study groups were combined. Participants with follow-up data at 6 and 24 months were included in the analysis. In total, 194 participants were analysed.
Overall, participants maintained their weight loss at 6 months, but began to regain weight by 24 months.
The main factors associated with weight regain at both 6 and 24 months were more eating at restaurants, reduced fish consumption and less physical activity.
More sedentary behaviour was associated with weight regain at 6 months. Reduced consumption of low-fat foods, more desserts and more sugary beverages were associated with weight gain at 24 months.
The researchers concluded that consuming less fish, fewer steps per day and more frequently eating at restaurants were the habits most consistently associated with weight regain.
Sedentary behaviour, reduced consumption of low-fat foods and increased sugary beverage and dessert consumption were also associated with weight regain.
Addressing these specific behaviours in those who have achieved weight loss may lead to a greater chance of long-term weight maintenance.
Some limitations were noted. Self-reporting of many habits may lead to biases. Some data regarding dietary habits could not be extracted from the surveys used. The participants were mostly female, white and educated, which limits the ability to generalise the findings to the greater population.
Further studies are needed to identify lifestyle habits associated with weight regain.
Gibbs, B.B., Tudorascu, D., Bryce, C.L., Comer, D., Fischer, G.S., Hess, R., Huber, K.A., McTigue, K.M., Simkin-Silverman, L.R. and Conroy, M.B., 2020. Lifestyle Habits Associated with Weight Regain After Intentional Loss in Primary Care Patients Participating in a Randomized Trial. Journal of General Internal Medicine, pp.1-7.