What to Do If You Regain the Weight You've LostBy Carole Anderson Lucia Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
If your New Year’s resolution to lose weight has started to falter and you’ve seen some unwelcome pounds creep back, you’re not alone. Whether it’s due to old habits resurfacing, a wavering of commitment or some weight loss techniques that could use a tune-up, weight regain is a common, if not frustrating, part of many people’s weight loss journey. The key is to stop the regain early on, before you find yourself reverting back to your old patterns — or before you’ve gained back all the weight you’ve lost. But what’s the best way to get back on track?
We’ve come up with a checklist of 13 questions you can ask yourself to see what might have contributed to weight gain after weight loss. We’ve also got a host of simple ways you can get back into weight loss mode and practice healthy habits for life!
1. Am I eating a balanced diet?
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Fad diets and their promises of fast and dramatic weight loss may be alluring, but eating a well-balanced diet that contains all of the necessary macronutrients can help to support ongoing, sustainable weight loss. (And that includes healthy carbs and healthy fats!) In fact, drastically reducing or eliminating your intake of certain foods can backfire and actually cause you to regain the weight you’ve lost — and then some. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic,1 for instance, say that eliminating carbohydrates or other food groups (like extreme versions of the keto diet) can lead to a weight “boomerang.”
Instead of resorting to fad diets for a quick fix, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend including the following elements in your daily diet for a healthy eating plan:2
- Fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products
- Beans, eggs, fish, lean meats, nuts and poultry
2. Am I getting enough exercise?
To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. One way you can do that is by reducing the number of calories you eat per day; the other way is through exercise — or, preferably, through a combination of the two (it’s the 80/20 rule for weight loss).
But how much exercise is enough? Guidelines from the CDC3 state that while requirements vary from person to person, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week is a good place to start for weight maintenance. (Moderate-intensity exercise includes activities such as walking briskly or bicycling at a casual pace; vigorous intensity includes jogging or swimming laps.)
If cardio exercise is your go-to, you might want to consider adding strength training to the mix. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises adults do muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.4 Strength training is a great way to increase lean muscle and potentially decrease body fat, according to the Mayo Clinic.5 Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Check out these 6 tips to start a strength training routine or our 30-day workout plan for beginners!
3. How is my sleep?
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Sleep deprivation — whether in the number of hours you sleep, or in the quality — might lead you to gain weight, the National Sleep Foundation reports.6 That’s because when you get too little sleep, your levels of the so-called hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are altered, which can lead you to overeat. In addition, sleep deprivation raises the level of a compound in your body called endocannabinoid, which can increase your appetite for foods such as candy, chips and cookies.6
Did you know? According to the National Sleep Foundation, when people don’t get enough sleep, they tend to eat twice as much fat and more than 300 extra calories the next day compared with people who get healthy amounts of shut-eye.6
So how much sleep is enough? Experts recommend aiming for 7-9 hours a night. If you need some help hitting the hay, check out these healthy sleep-inducing tips, such as creating a sleep schedule (that you stick to!), avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, and not working out too close to bedtime. Avoid using electronic devices too close to bedtime, as the blue light emitted from phones, computer screens and the like can disrupt sleep.7
4. Am I managing my stress?
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably dealt with your fair share of stress — and experienced some of the not-so-pleasant side effects that come along with it — like headaches, fatigue, sleep problems and more.8 But did you know that being chronically stressed can also contribute to weight gain? Harvard Health reports that long-term, chronic stress can cause an increase in a hormone called cortisol.9 Cortisol is known to increase appetite and also may increase your motivation to eat — two factors that can cause the pounds to start creeping back. In addition, chronic stress and cortisol have been linked to the development of abdominal weight gain, also known as belly fat.10
To help keep stress in check, make a commitment to do regular stress-management activities. Practicing yoga or meditation, getting regular exercise and participating in a hobby you enjoy can help you stay grounded.
5. Am I drinking enough water?
According to the Mayo Clinic,11,12 water is vital to the proper functioning of virtually every organ and system in your body, from temperature regulation, to lubrication of your joints, to delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the cells of your body and so much more. Water might also help with weight loss by helping you feel more full, which might prevent overeating.13
The general rule of thumb is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. However, depending on your activity level and the climate you live in, you may need to drink more.
Pro Tip: Water is also found in hydrating foods, which contributes to your total intake. Reach for foods that are naturally full of water, such as celery, cucumbers, melon and broth-based soups. Check out the best foods for hydration here.
6. Am I getting enough fiber in my diet?
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Harvard Health14 reports that in addition to helping you lose weight, eating 30 grams of fiber per day can help lower your blood pressure and improve your body’s response to insulin — important factors for helping prevent cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
To boost your intake of this important nutrient, focus on fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains, the experts at Harvard suggest. Also try these tips:15
- Choose whole fruit over fruit juice. (Just be mindful of your intake if you’re trying to lose weight.)
- When choosing cereals and other packaged foods, opt for types that list a whole grain, such as quinoa, brown rice, barley or oats as the first ingredient.
- Crave some crunch? Go for raw vegetables instead of chips or crackers.
7. Am I skipping meals or going too long in between?
Do you always feel hungry? You might not be eating enough. Not only can skipping meals make you overly hungry and more likely to overeat at your next meal, but you might also be more tempted to reach for foods with refined sugar to get your energy levels back up quickly.
Instead of skipping meals in an effort to save calories, experts agree that the best way to structure your meals and snacks is to eat every few hours throughout the day.16
8. Have I tried time-restricted eating?
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Eating in accordance with your natural circadian rhythms — which means eating most of your meals and snacks during daylight hours (and avoiding eating late at night) — can be one of the easiest ways to support your weight loss goals.
Time-restricted eating, a type of intermittent fasting, involves consuming all of your meals and snacks during a 12-hour time period, followed by a 12-hour rest period in which no foods or caloric beverages are consumed (most of this time is spent sleeping). Taking such a break from eating may help your body turn to burning fat.17
9. Am I weighing myself daily?
If you suspect you’ve regained a few pounds, the last thing you might want to do is get on a scale. But doing so — regularly — might actually help your weight loss efforts. That’s right: Research18 indicates that weighing yourself every day can help you lose unwanted pounds, in part because doing so can be motivating and help you adopt — and maintain — weight-control behaviors.
10. Does my motivation need a boost?
If you’ve started to regain weight, you might be feeling less motivated than usual. To help you get it back, check in with yourself: What inspired you to lose weight in the first place? What are your goals? How can you best get there? Try to tap into the motivation that inspired you to undertake a weight loss program in the first place.
Need some more weight loss inspo? Check out these 5 motivation tips.
11. What can I learn from this experience?
Take a look at your habits to see if you can pinpoint what may have caused your weight regain. Overeating could have affected your weight loss goals — check out this guide to portioning your meals and snacks to stay on track. Did you chuck your walking schedule out the window when the weather turned cold? Analyze where you might have strayed — and take steps to start making healthier choices moving forward.
12. Do I need support?
According to research,19 having social support can be instrumental in your weight loss efforts, whether it’s somebody to hold you accountable, to problem-solve with or to help you build healthier habits. Your spouse, a friend or your workout partner can fill this role, or a Jenny Craig weight loss consultant can.
Whoever you tap for support, make sure they’re encouraging and supportive!
13. Am I getting bored?
Maybe it’s time to switch things up a bit! Try a new walking route, a different workout routine or a form of exercise you’ve never done before. Experiment with different cooking techniques, or try varieties of vegetables, fruit, protein sources and low-fat dairy that you haven’t before. From vegetable spirals to coconut milk yogurt and every imaginable type of plant-based protein, there’s never been a better time to experiment with delicious, healthy foods!
If you’ve regained a few pounds in your weight loss journey, don’t be too hard on yourself. Weight regain happens and it’s quite common. You can and you will reach those goals! Take a deep breath, reassess where you are and where you want to be, and then get back on track. And remember: Progress is what’s important, not perfection!
Do you need help crafting a simple, effective and delicious weight loss plan? Jenny Craig can help. Contact us for a free appointment and meet with a weight loss consultant today.
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.