Keep the Weight Off

Avoid Common Diet Traps That Cause People to Regain Weight

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 14, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

Take it off. And now that you've got it off, keep it off. The first part is easy. The second sometimes seems nearly impossible.

Yes, this is about those extra pounds. You know the ones. You lost them last year, and the year before that. Yet they come back year after year like reruns of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Last year you tried the latest miracle diet. You bought that hot new diet book right off the best-seller shelf. And maybe the pounds didn't exactly melt away as promised, but at first you did lose weight. Then the weight loss slowed down. The fad diet didn't seem so new any more; the special diet food packs were expensive; the new diet just didn't feel healthy; you nibbled a few sweets and felt too guilty to continue.

You aren't alone. For every 20 dieters who lose weight, only one keeps the weight off. Don't despair -- you can beat those odds.

Diet Traps

The U.S. FDA says most people trying to lose weight fall into diet traps. The diets promise quick and easy answers. The diet industry makes $30 billion a year by telling people what they want to hear: that modern science has at last discovered effortless ways to lose weight.

Here are some common diet traps:

  • Eat all you want and still lose weight. Sounds too good to be true, right? It is. The laws of physics still apply. Your extra weight is energy stored up as fat. To lose weight, more energy has to come out than goes in. Energy is measured in calories. When you move your body, you burn calories. When you eat or drink anything other than water, you take in calories. If you burn more than you take in, you lose weight.
  • I have to starve myself to lose weight. Very low-calorie diets are dangerous. This should be done only with medical supervision, and only when there is a medical need to lose a lot of weight as fast as possible. Gradual weight loss is much healthier -- and much easier.
  • I have to diet to lose weight. One diet after another isn't the answer. A consistent plan for a healthier lifestyle lays the groundwork for lasting weight loss.
  • A fad diet worked for my friend. We all know someone who went on a diet and swears by it. These diets rarely work for long. A sudden change in your eating habits can lead to a pattern of quick weight loss followed by rebound weight gain once you go back to a normal diet.
  • Lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks! Early weight loss from fad diets is usually from water loss. The bathroom scale may show that you lost weight, but it is not fat weight. Most experts say that losing a pound a week is an excellent goal. This means eating 500 fewer calories a day. This can be done by learning -- and practicing -- healthy eating habits.

Diet Programs

There are lots of diet programs out there. Before you sign up, the FDA suggests that you ask these questions:

  • What are the health risks?
  • What data can you show me that your program really works?
  • Do your other customers keep their weight off after they leave the program?
  • Do you have a weight-maintenance program? Does it cost extra?
  • What kind of supervision do you offer? What credentials to these supervisors have?
  • What's involved? Are there special foods, counseling visits, or exercise plans?

The Sensible Approach: Get Real

You don't have to join a diet program to lose weight and keep it off. You do need to make a plan. This plan must be realistic. If you can lose a pound a week, that's great. If all you are able to do is stop gaining weight, you're still ahead of the game.

Here are the first steps:

  • Talk to a professional. A doctor, a dietician, or another qualified health professional can help you determine your ideal healthy body weight -- and the safest way for you to get there.
  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Eat out less often; portion control in restaurants can be difficult.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods to be sure you're getting the nutrition you need.
  • Eat lots of foods with lots of fiber. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Eat fewer high-fat foods. These include dairy products like cheese, butter, and whole milk; red meat; cakes; and pastries.
  • Avoid drinking sweetened beverages and soda; drink water instead.
  • Do regular aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities each week.

Take Charge

WebMD has a lot more information that can help you take charge of your weight. This includes information on the most popular diet programs, weight-loss tools, and expert advice. Click here to Evaluate the Latest Diets.