If you just hit your goal weight, congratulations! That’s a huge accomplishment that you should be very proud of achieving.
Now that you’re at your goal weight, you might be wondering: What do I need to do in order to maintain my current weight?
That’s a very good question to be asking since a meta-analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies found that “more than half of the lost weight was regained within two years, and by five years more than 80% of lost weight was regained.”
Since maintaining weight loss may be as challenging (if not more challenging) than losing weight, let’s take a look at the main factors that affect your target calorie intake, how many calories you need for weight maintenance, and how often you should be exercising in order to maintain your current weight.
Main Factors That Affect Your Target Calorie Intake
Knowing how many calories you need to consume each day is essential for maintaining your current weight. The number of calories that you need per day can vary based on a variety of factors, such as your age, sex, height, current weight, activity level, and metabolic health, among others.
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which estimates calorie needs per day based on age, sex, and physical activity level, the recommended calorie intake for adult women ranges from 1,600 calories per day to 2,400 calories per day, while the calorie intake for adult men ranges from 2,200 to 3,200 calories per day.
Calories You Need For Weight Maintenance
Since you’ve hit your goal weight, you already know that for weight loss, you generally need to create a calorie deficit either by consuming fewer calories than you normally do, exercising more, or by both eating a little less and doing regular physical activity. On the other hand, if you’re trying to gain weight, your daily calorie goal will include a calorie surplus.
But how many calories does your body need each day to maintain your current weight? One way that you can find out an answer to that question is to use a calorie calculator, which takes into consideration your age, gender, height, current weight, and activity level.
And if you’re moderately active, which means getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day in the form of exercise, another way to determine the number of calories that you should consume daily is to multiply your current weight by 15. That’s because 15 is roughly the number of calories per pound of body weight needed to maintain your current weight if you are moderately active.
How To Count Your Daily Calories
Once you determine your daily calorie target to maintain your current weight, one approach is to add up the number of calories per serving of all the foods that you eat, and then plan your menus based on those numbers. Or, if you have a smartphone, there are a number of apps available that facilitate tracking calories, exercise, and your daily progress. Some calorie counting apps even have estimates for the calories in many popular foods, as well as calorie estimates for dishes at restaurants.
However, counting calories isn’t always for everyone. So, if calorie counting isn’t for you, focus on developing (or maintaining) a healthy lifestyle plan that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet that’s rich in a variety of nutritious, whole foods.
The core elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern include vegetables, fruits, grains (at least half of which are whole grain), oils, and protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs, as well as beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
In fact, research suggests that following a higher-protein diet might help with weight maintenance. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols was also suggested as an effective approach to sustaining a healthy weight.
How Often Should You Exercise To Maintain Your Current Weight?
When it comes to physical activity, this calorie counter states that sedentary means little or no exercise, light is for people who exercise 1 to 3 times each week, moderate is for people who exercise 4 to 5 times per week, active means daily exercise or intense exercise 3 to 4 times per week, very active means intense exercise 6 to 7 times per week, and extra active is for people who exercise very intensely daily, or who have a very physical job.
So, if you’re using this calorie counter, it’s really up to you to determine how often you want to exercise in order to maintain your current weight. As long as you factored exercise into the equation, your daily calorie goal (the calculator result) to maintain your current weight has already accounted for the type of exercise that you do each week.
That said, if you end up being more (or less) active than you originally planned, you can always go back and enter your current activity level into the calorie counter in order to determine your calorie needs.
3 Tips For Weight Maintenance
Continue Paying Attention To Your Dietary Choices: Now that you’ve done the hard work and lost the weight that you wanted to, it’s important to continue paying attention to your dietary choices. So, if you’re someone who lost weight by counting calories, don’t just get rid of that strategy now that you’re at your goal weight. Instead, continue keeping a food log since recording what you eat every day helps to keep you accountable and motivated.
Exercise Regularly: Aerobic activity, which is any type of physical activity that causes an increase in your heart rate, is especially beneficial for disease prevention. Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And when combined with a healthy diet, aerobic exercise can help you not only lose weight, but also keep it off.
Studies have also shown strength training to increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass in adults. And in addition to its beneficial effects on body composition, strength training also increases the resting metabolic rate in adults, which is a measurement of the amount of calories burned per day.
Therefore, physical activity plays a vital and essential role in maintaining weight loss. So, while physical activity that uses 1,500 to 2,000 calories per week is recommended for maintaining weight loss, adults should try to get at least 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous level physical activity at least 3 to 4 times per week.
You can do home workouts, circuit training at the gym, or really anything that requires you to move your body. That’s because studies show that even exercise that is not rigorous, such as walking, has a positive effect.
Embrace Your Support System: Support systems used effectively during weight loss can contribute to weight maintenance. In fact, a review noted that “even the highest quality short-term interventions are unlikely to yield continued positive outcomes without persisting intervention and support. Several studies show that ongoing interaction with healthcare providers or in group settings significantly improves weight maintenance and long-term outcomes.”