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The Value of Post-Diet Maintenance

by Dr. Mel Davis, PhD and Paul Salter, MS, RD | Aug 07, 2020

Dr. Mel Davis, PhD

Paul Salter, MS, RD


Fact: 90-95%* of dieters regain the weight they lost on their diets.  While a multitude of  diets, diet foods and resources seem to be everywhere these days, there seem to be far fewer products or recommendations aimed at helping dieters maintain their weight loss.  As evidenced by the grim aforementioned statistic, the current lack of weight maintenance education and support ambushes most dieters once they let down their guard.  In reality, they’re anything but, and require intelligent, evidence-based maintenance.        

That’s what we’re here to share with you: just how to ensure that you’re in the 5-10% of dieters who loses weight and actually keeps it off.  Read on to learn how to effectively maintain your hard-earned weight loss.    

*This figure represents ALL dieters across dieting methodologies vs RP dieters specifically

Post-Diet Maintenance Phase:  A three to six month period after a successful diet, in which you make a series of gradual increases in your baseline calorie intake.

Main Benefits

  • Provides recovery and a psychological and physical reprieve from the effects and stress of dieting
  • Revs your metabolism back up 
  • Reduces appetite-stimulating hormones
  • Increases appetite-suppressing hormones
  • Increases thyroid hormone production 
  • Allows muscle and connective tissue to better heal from hard training

The beauty of this gradual calorie increase is that, when implemented correctly, by the end of a successful maintenance phase, your daily caloric intake is on par with your  pre-diet intake, but, within a few pounds, you post-diet weight is maintained!  

Yet, out of ignorance of this fact that, in maintenance, you can have your pre-diet calories and eat them too - many dieters instead continue to eat a low calorie diet, with occasional overeating sessions that keep their weight the same but don’t allow their metabolism to increase or other side effects of dieting to resolve.  Others do increase calories, but do so all at once, immediately at the end of the diet, resulting in rapid weight gain due to the fact that their metabolism hasn’t yet sped up post-diet, and other diet side effects are still at play.

Quick Tips on How to Do Maintenance Right!

  • Don’t diet for too long in the first place:  RP data suggest that 6-9 weeks might be the sweet spot for successful diets, but 12 weeks should probably be your hard limit.
  • Don’t diet too hard:  RP data suggest that losing around 0.8% of your body weight per week is the pace with the highest likelihood of success.  This means losing 1.6 pounds per week if you weigh 200lb, 1.2 pounds per week if you weigh 150lb, and so on.
  • Ease in with calorie increases:  Add food back slowly in amounts of around 250-500 calories (in carbs or fats) per day every 3-4 weeks.
  • Remember that you don’t have to eat every treat you are able to once the diet ends:  Try rating temptations on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being your absolute favorite.  Then, only indulge when the available treat scores a 7 or above!  Also, ease into adding treats, perhaps waiting a month after diet to start having particularly tasty foods, as this is when you will be more recovered and less likely to go overboard!
  • Weigh yourself regularly (but keep it unemotional):  Your weight will go up a little from the additional water in your tissues and additional food in your GI tract, but the average should stay pretty steady, fluctuating plus or minus 2-4lb, depending on your size.  Moreover, weighing in can be a good reminder to stay on track with your slow maintenance ease-in, and has been shown to support longterm weight maintenance.

Learn more about maintenance philosophy and methodology.