You’ve Lost Weight. Why Does It Come Back?


The new year is here, and one of the most common resolutions is to lose weight. But what if that’s not the end of it?

Many who shed those unwanted pounds think they are done struggling with their weight. Unfortunately, that weight has a tendency to come back. And, in between bouts of stress eating, we find ourselves asking exactly why that is.

Fortunately, there are a few easy answers to this question. Keep reading to discover why your own unwanted pounds just keep coming back!

Short-term diets

When you want to lose weight, you want to lose it sooner rather than later. That’s one of the reasons that short-term diets are so popular. These programs promise that you’ll just need to buckle down for a few weeks of heavy dieting, hit your target weight, and then enjoy a healthier and more confident life.

Here’s the thing: this kind of crash dieting can work in the sense that any calory restriction can help you burn pounds. But if you just go back to your old lifestyle when the diet is over, the old pounds are virtually guaranteed to creep back in.

Long story short? Avoid crash diets and other diet trends. Instead, try to adopt both a healthier diet and regular exercise regimen that will keep the pounds away for good.

RELATED: How Many Calories Should You Really Eat Per Day To Lose Weight?

It’s easy to stop exercising

Speaking of exercise, it’s one of the primary ways that people lose unwanted weight. Shortly after the new year begins, legions of people sign up for gym memberships to try to make their New Year’s resolutions come true.

And regular exercise is a great way to lose weight. But even after hitting your target weight, most people need a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day as part of their weight maintenance.

Unfortunately, people get too busy to hit the gym or bored of their old routines. And when you stop exercising but still eat the same as you always did, those pounds will come creeping back.

Your body may be naturally heavier (no, really)

Heavier people have joked about simply being “big boned” for so long that it’s become a pop-culture punchline (just ask the kids of South Park). Weirdly, though, there is a bit of truth to this claim.

Heavier people don’t literally have larger bones, of course. But they do have more fat cells, and their bodies put in immense work trying to provide energy to each and every one of those cells. Unfortunately, this means that heavier people may have more trouble shedding pounds and more trouble keeping those pounds off than their naturally-skinny counterparts.

It doesn’t mean all hope is lost, though. A naturally-heavier person who loses weight simply needs to commit to the lifestyle changes that helped them shake those pounds in the first place. As always, this means looking past the initial goal of hitting a certain weight and looking at the long-term benefits of healthier eating and regular exercise.

RELATED: 7 Myths About Weight Loss You Always Thought Were True

Slower metabolism

Your metabolism is what helps burn calories. All of us naturally have a higher metabolism when we are younger, which is why teenagers can wolf down so much food without gaining as much weight. But a slowing metabolism can bring pounds back in a couple of different ways.

For one thing, metabolism naturally slows down as we get older. So you could lose weight and then gain it back in a few years even if you made no real changes to your diet or exercise. That’s because your metabolism now isn’t breaking the calories down as it did years ago.

Additionally, dieting can affect metabolism because your body will eventually worry that you are starving, so it slows down your metabolism to conserve strength. In other words, burning enough calories can cause your body to work against you in an attempt to preserve energy. This is why it is particularly important to understand the difference between being hungry (genuinely needing to eat) and having an appetite (simply wanting to eat) and to stop eating when you are actually full.

Hormones affect weight

We tend to blame our hormones for much of the crazier things that we say or do. But when it comes to getting unwanted pounds back, your hormones really may be to blame!

When you start burning fat, your body produces more ghrelin, which is more popularly known as “the hunger hormone.” True to its nickname, this hormone makes your body hungrier more often. In what feels like a cruel joke, you can actually lose a lot of weight and end up feeling hungrier than ever.

Fortunately, you can fight the effects of the hunger hormone by getting a good night’s sleep, reducing stress, and eating three meals a day. Meals with lots of protein and healthy fats are particularly good at fighting the effects of this hormone.

RELATED: Understanding Weight Fluctuations & Erratic Numbers On The Scale

The relationship between weight, anxiety, and emotion

Everybody is familiar with the concept of “emotional eating.” And after a bad day or particularly traumatic event, it’s not uncommon for someone to “eat their feelings.” But to really understand why unwanted pounds tend to come back, you need to understand the complex relationship between your weight, your anxiety, and other emotions.

Here’s a basic example: many people use weight loss to treat what they think of as a problem, but that problem is really just a symptom. For example, someone may lose weight so they can look better and improve their self-esteem. But if their self-esteem issues stem from something like depression, then losing weight is destined to be a short-term fix.

If you don’t actually focus on the main problem, then anxiety, stress, and other emotions may cause you to eat more. This is particularly true because eating good food gives our brains a dopamine rush of good feelings. But that dopamine rush is temporary, and issues like depression last far longer, especially if they go undiagnosed and untreated.

To keep the weight from coming back, you need to simultaneously work on your body (with a healthy diet and exercise) and your mind (with mindful mediations and, if needed, professional help and medication). In this way, you’ll do more than keep the pounds away: you’ll live up to everyone’s favorite New Year’s resolution of creating an “all-new you.”