Why Do People Regain Weight After Dieting?

Most people who lose a lot of weight will tell you the same thing. The hardest part of dieting isn’t getting the weight off, it’s keeping it off. Regaining weight after dieting is a real problem for hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. There are few things more frustrating than regaining weight after putting in long hours of exercise, calorie counting and denying yourself comfort food. Shows like The Biggest Loser often show the process of losing weight, but they rarely focus on the aftermath of the “loss.” The reasons we regain weight after dieting are becoming a serious issue.

Reasons We Regain Weight

The Washington Post has begun to cover this topic quite extensively and for good reason. Americans who fail to keep weight off are in danger of exposing themselves to all the health problems they thought they left behind. So, why do people regain weight after dieting? It can be broken down into two main problems.

Mental Lapses

For a lot of people, weight loss is a journey. For some, it’s an epic journey that requires a lot of mental preparation, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of pushing through the pain. Once they reach their goal weight, some people begin to lapse into old habits out of complacency and “reward” based thinking. With their weight loss journey at its end, they begin to lose their discipline with thoughts like “what harm could one burger do?” and “I’ll just skip the gym today.” Unchecked, those thoughts turn to a complacency that can seriously affect your waistline.

When they reach their goal, they begin to think that the “weight loss” is done and set off on the next task, while falling back into the old habits that put on the weight in the first place.

Medical Reasons

For some people, their mentality isn’t a problem, neither is their discipline. Yet the weight still returns – why? The answer lies in their Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). The RMR is a measure of the amount of biochemical activity going on in your body when you aren’t physically active. You might not have heard of this metric, but it’s hugely important as it measures the activity that keeps you alive, warm and feeling good. For most people, 80 percent of the calories we expend each day are due to RMR.

When you lose large amounts of weight, your RMR doesn’t stay the same as it was. When a lot of your weight loss is fat, logic dictates that you would see a small drop in your RMR – as fat is not metabolically very active. And yet, relatively large drops in RMR are quite common among people who lose large amounts of body fat due to a diet or exercise. So what does this mean? It means that you have to work harder to keep the weight off than you did to lose it, which many people don’t realize this.

A study on The Biggest Loser contestants showed that the majority of them put back most of the weight they lost on the show in the six years following the end of the series. Most of this was down to a change in their RMR. They experienced a drop of almost 30% to their RMR. The amount of physical activity you would need to add to your regularly daily activities to account for this drop is almost too much for most people to achieve.

Ultimately, the reasons behind why people regain weight after dieting are varied, but for most – maintaining the healthy habits gained during the weight loss will help them to stay on track.

What Can You Do?

Sitting for long periods is bad for you. Your blood starts to pool in your lower half, meaning it doesn’t get sent back to the heart as often, decreasing your RMR. The good news is that you have a soleus muscle in your calf. It’s job is to send blood back up your body. The stronger it is, the more blood it will recycle, the higher your RMR and the more weight you’ll keep off once off.

Tai Chi is an effective way to strengthen the soleus muscle. Also, there are a series of exercises you can do to that will achieve the same goal. Add those into your regular regime.


Of course, before starting any new exercise regime, we recommend you get tested to make sure that the cause of your weight gain isn’t a symptom of a more serious problem!

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