Eating & Physical Activity to Lose or Maintain Weight
What options might help you lose weight?
Changing your eating habits is central to losing and maintaining your weight. To lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories and use more calories than you take in. This can be challenging for many people to do for an extended period of time. Emerging research shows that sticking with an eating plan may be more important to losing and maintaining weight than the type of eating plan you follow.
Follow a healthy eating plan
All your food and beverage choices count. Eating healthy is a journey shaped by many factors, including your age, weight, metabolism, food preferences, access to food, culture, and traditions; whether you are a man or woman; and the personal decisions you make over time. A healthy eating plan includes
- a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, and whole-wheat bread
- fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese and similar products such as soy beverages
- a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products
- oils, such as olive and canola oils and those found in nuts, olives, and avocados
A healthy eating plan also includes
- consuming fewer foods and beverages that have refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and salt (sodium)
- controlling portion sizes
- limiting foods with saturated fats and trans fats, like those found in desserts and fried foods
To learn more about a healthy eating plan and the amounts of food and beverages that are right for you, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Get regular physical activity
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition (PDF, 14.2 MB) define regular physical activity as at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. A moderate-intensity aerobic activity makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe harder but does not overwork or overheat you. This type of physical activity is safe for most people.
People with physical disabilities also can do certain activities, such as wheelchair aerobics or basketball. Talk with your doctor about the types of physical activity that might work well with your abilities.
If you have a health condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, talk with your doctor before you start regular physical activity. Your doctor can review with you the types and amounts of physical activity that might suit your lifestyle, interests, and skills.
What should I do to stay at a healthy weight?
Recent research has found there are many reasons why it is difficult to keep weight off after losing weight. In addition to metabolism slowing during weight loss, your body needs fewer calories at your new, lower weight. Hormonal and other factors also tend to promote weight regain. People who have kept weight off long-term report needing to keep careful track of their food intake and to do high levels of physical activity. Some people who have reached a healthy weight may find it hard to keep the weight off.
Keep track of your weight
Weigh yourself regularly. Keep a record of your weight to help make sure you are maintaining your weight loss and not regaining weight.
Stick to your healthy eating plan
Continue to make healthy food choices, and make following your healthy eating plan a lifelong habit. Find healthy food options that you prefer and enjoy, as you are more likely to stick with your eating plan.
Continue regular physical activity
Regular physical activity may help you keep from regaining weight you’ve lost. Aim for at least 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity to prevent regaining weight.9 Make regular physical activity a lifelong habit.
Take part in a weight-loss maintenance program
If you were overweight or had obesity and lost weight, your doctor may advise you to take part in a program to help you maintain your weight loss. The program may help you stick to your healthy eating and regular physical activity plan, and track your progress.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank:
Jamy D. Ard, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Wake Forest School of Medicine