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Does Fear of Regaining Weight Keep You From Losing?

Fear of regaining weight and fear of failure are common.

Regaining Weight -- and Wanting to Give Up

So, the scale is up five pounds this week and you've done everything right. Obviously time to give up, right?

Although that's common thinking among dieting veterans, it's destructive, of course. "Don't look at regainingweight as a failure,'' says Marisa Moore, RD, an Atlanta dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "It's just a signal to try something new."

For instance, if you've been walking for exercise, switch routines. Take up skating with your kids, for instance. Start a hiking group. Check out your neighborhood gym.

Addressing the problem of regaining weight quickly is crucial to long-term success, says Rena Wing, PhD, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry (, an ongoing study of more than 6,000 men and women who have taken off at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year.

"We have shown that people trying to lose any amount of weight, once they start to regain, they need to take action quickly," she says. "We tell people to get concerned at two pounds."

Sometimes, people are tempted to give up when they feel they have "blown it" for just a day, or even a meal. "The littlest slips, like you overeat at one meal, those probably are not going to do much to your weight," Wing says.

But that's not to say a slip is harmless. "It often sets up a vicious cycle," she says. Typical thinking, she says, goes like this: "See, here I go again, I'm a failure, I can't do this." And that can lead to lapses and relapses and serious weight regain.

"It's not the slip that is the problem," Wing says. "It's the negative thinking you do afterward." So, the answer is to learn to stop the negative thinking. Such as? "I've shown before I can get back on track."

Wade Wingler, 37, of Danville, Ind., lost 100 pounds and has kept it off. "But last winter, I put on 15," he tells WebMD. At first, he couldn't figure out why, as he was following the same eating and exercise plan. "I jumped back into problem-solving mode," he says.

He checked in with his doctor, who found thyroid abnormalities, he says, and put him on medication. And he was soon on his way to shedding the 15 pounds again.

Losing Weight and Gaining Good Habits

As those who have lost weight and kept it off know, it takes time to develop healthier eating habits and exercise routines. Those who have done that say they can't offer more valuable advice other than "Just keep doing it."

For some, the fear of regaining actually keeps them following a healthy lifestyle. Wingler, for instance, says he has fear of regaining weight every day. "Every single day I worry about it, which is how I stay motivated."

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