Why maintaining weight loss is tougher than losing weight…

weight loss

One of the big topics that came up from my recent request for what you wanted to know was…

How do I keep the ‘weight loss' off long term?

(…or words to that effect!)

When you step on the scales, it doesn't actually know whether it is weighing a human or a suitcase.

It just tells you how heavy the thing on it is!

Body weight does not discriminate between muscle mass (which we want to maintain or increase to promote longevity) and fat mass (which we generally want to keep relatively low).

So when we set a goal of ‘weight loss' our real aim should be losing body fat.

Losing fat mass isn’t necessarily easy, but unfortunately, that struggle pales in comparison to the challenge of keeping it off.

I could get very technical now and talk about the role the hormone leptin plays in this process.

In a sentence, leptin is our ‘satiety hormone’ that causes a reduction in food intake.

But we become leptin resistant, and the brain sees this as a sign of starvation, and drives increased appetite, and reduces energy expenditure… 

The result of this is increasing calorie intake and reducing calorie burn.

And the result of this is the excess calories being stored as fat (again!).

There are loads of theories around why this all happens but taking it back a gazillion years…

One idea is that humans (and animals) throughout evolutionary history have been on the brink of starvation, so they did two things:

1. Do anything they could to preserve energy.

2. When given the opportunity to get more energy, they ate as much as they could when they could.

I am pretty certain when cave (wo)man caught a Zebra, they didn’t look at the sun and the shadows and say:

“Hmmm… the 45 degree shadow tells me it is 2:30pm, I’ll wait until the shadows are longer at 7pm to eat my dinner.”

They ate the whole Zebra in one sitting… immediately!

Jumping back to modern times and our current environment, most of us now over consume calories on a daily basis.

For most people their job requires them to sit down for hours (preserving energy!).

When they are told by their bosses or the clock that it is lunchtime, they take the opportunity to get us much food in as they can, when they can, as their lunch break is only an hour.

Or worse…

You don’t even get up from your chair, you eat lunch on the go whilst deleting emails from your inbox, or checking out the cute kitten falling behind the TV on Facebook!

So back to the question…

Why do I put weight/body fat back on?

Body fat cannot be created from nothing.

If more energy (calories) enters the system (your body) than is leaving it, then the system (your body) will grow.

Think of a bucket… if you keep pouring water into it, it will eventually overflow.

But if you started drilling holes into the bottom and sides as you were pouring the water in, it will delay the point of overflow, and at some point stop it happening as more water is leaking out than being poured in.

The water being poured in is you eating.

The holes being drilled are the effect of exercise/movement on your system. 

Frustratingly for us humans our fat cells don’t overflow…

When they get full they grow.

The process is WAY WAY WAY more complicated than this, and hormones play a massive role in the whole process, especially insulin. 

And there is nothing more frustrating that someone who is genetically built in a way to not store body fat as much as another (certainly not me, by the way) saying:

“Oh, it is simply a case of calories in and calories out…”.

This is simply someone who was born close to the finish line so thinks they have won the race.

But we must accept the principle of calories in and calories out is relevant.

More relevant though is in fact, the macronutrient breakdown (protein, fats, and carbohydrates) of what you eat.

Not all calories are created equal, and this goes back to the role of insulin.

When people eat a food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood.

As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage.

And guess what cells absorb the blood sugar?

Yes, your fat cells.

Some does go to muscles… but if they are full, then it goes straight to fat cells.

This is why eating carbohydrates post workout is so beneficial:

1. It replaces used muscle glycogen (fuel in your muscles) to allow you to recover and have energy to get through your day (and for your next workout).

2. It means more of the carbs consumed are stored in your muscles and not the fat cells.

But… if you consume TOO many carbs NOT after exercise, most of them get stored as fat.

So 700 words later…

The answer to question of why maintaining weight loss is harder than losing it in the first place…

You are no longer moving enough and/or eating too many calories/carbs.

Q) What did you do to lose weight in the first place?

Probably reduced your calorie intake and/or increased your calorie burn (exercise and movement).

“Oh, but Chris… the way I ate to lose the weight wasn’t sustainable”


And this is why at Plan B Fitness we don’t do diets and we don’t offer quick fixes.

It's also why we don’t offer just nutritional advice or just workouts.

We deliver programmes that includes nutritional guidance, training, support and accountability.

If you are currently paying someone (PT or a gym) that only offers exercise, or a diet club that only offers nutritional advice…

And, they are promising transformational and long term results…

I truly believe they are doing you a massive disservice.

Borderline being dishonest.