A Guide to Sustainable Weight Loss

Weight Management -  A Guide to Sustainable Weight Loss

At some point in our lives, many of us have tried to lose weight. Unfortunately, fad diets just do not work! Most of them are short-lived with equally short-term effects, if any at all. They mainly consist of highly restrictive food programs developed purely for the purpose of losing weight. It is no wonder many do not work, because they fail to address the root cause of weight gain. In fact, crash dieting is not effective for long term weight loss and maintenance. Most people who lose weight by dieting only end up regaining it after a year or sometimes gaining more than they lost in the first place.1 In this article, we will explore more sustainable strategies for losing weight and keeping it off.

Causes of weight gain

Lifestyle behaviors

Habits like poor sleep, inadequate exercise, poor nutrition and stress can contribute to an individual’s inability to lose weight. Research shows lack of sleep contributes to weight gain and obesity.2 Also, a sedentary lifestyle as well as a diet with high amounts of processed foods and sugary drinks can cause weight gain. Increased physical activity like walking, cycling or jogging as part of a daily routine is more likely to help you to lose weight.3

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can cause us to gain weight to struggle with weight loss. They include hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome and depression.4 

Steps to Sustainable Weight Loss

  1. Correct underlying cause of weight gain: Adopting or embracing a healthier lifestyle is necessary as the first step. Lifestyle changes should be approached one healthy habit at a time as this works better than adopting a rigid, perfectionist mindset. By making small changes that you can stick to for a long time, you are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.1,2 Exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy diet are some of the behaviour changes that can help our weight loss journey. 

           A) Physical activity

              One of the more obvious benefits of exercise and increased physical activity is weight maintenance and management.5 When we exercise regularly, it                prevents us from regaining weight. This is because exercise helps us burn calories and increases our metabolic rate which helps us maintain a healthy                weight. However, exercise actually has relatively moderate effects on weight loss. As we increase our level of physical activity and exercise, we expend                more energy, which naturally leads to an increase in appetite. Thus, exercise makes us eat more, which, unfortunately, makes us gain weight. Exercise                is most beneficial in the management and maintenance of weight and in preventing weight gain.5 In order to reap the weight loss benefits of exercise, it                is important to combine it with a balanced diet, adequate hydration and increased fibre intake.

           B) Healthy eating

               Eating a healthy diet is important in weight maintenance and management. As mentioned earlier, dieting is not an effective way to lose weight. Instead,                it is advisable to create a small calorie deficit that can be maintained over time. You can do this by eating smaller, regular meals, increasing vegetable                and protein intake and limiting your intake of carbohydrates and sugar.6

           C) Sleep

                As adults, we need between seven and eight hours of sleep every night.7 Research has shown that inadequate sleep (less than 7 hours a night) is                 associated with increased risk of weight gain and higher body mass index (BMI).8,9 One study found that people who had less than 7 hours of sleep                 each night had a 41% increased risk of developing obesity.10 It is believed that lack of sleep increases the levels of the hormone ghrelin, which makes                 us hungry, allowing us to overeat.11

  1. Set small, realistic goals: Starting small, giving yourself plenty of time and allowing yourself to progress gradually will allow you to achieve weight loss in a sustainable manner.2

  1. Find a support network: Find a weight-loss friend, partner, colleague or a group that can encourage and keep you motivated sustain your healthy lifestyle habits.2


Source: Wellness Garage (2022). S3 Medical Weight Management. https://www.wellnessgarage.ca/weight.html


1. NHS (2018). 10 weight loss myths. Managing your weight. 10 weight loss myths - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

2. Havard Health Publishing (2022). 7 habits to help you lose weight and keep it off. 7 habits to help you lose weight and keep it off - Harvard Health

3. NHS (2019) 12 tips to help you lose weight. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/managing-your-weight/12-tips-to-help-you-lose-weight/

4. WebMD (2021). Medical causes of obesity. https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/medical-reasons-obesity

5. Mayo Clinic (2021). Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity. Fitness. Healthy Lifestyle. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

6. Ball J. (2022). The best way to lose weight and keep it off long term, according to experts. Weight loss. Eating Well. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7922773/best-way-to-lose-weight-and-keep-it-off-according-to-experts/

7. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health (2020). Are you getting enough sleep? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/features/getting-enough-sleep.html

8. Brum M. et al. (2020). Night shift work, short sleep and obesity. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2020 Feb 10:12:13.  doi: 10.1186/s13098-020-0524-9. PMID: 32064002; PMCID: PMC7011518.

9. Cooper C. et al. (2018). Sleep deprivation and obesity in adults: a brief narrative review. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2018 Oct 4;4(1):e000392. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000392. PMID: 30364557; PMCID: PMC6196958.

10. Bacaro V. et al. (2020). Sleep duration and obesity in adulthood: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2020  Jul-Aug;14(4):301-309. doi: 10.1016/j.orcp.2020.03.004. Epub 2020 Jun 8. PMID: 32527625.

11. Ding C., Lim L., Xu L. and Kong A. (2018). Sleep and Obesity. J Obes Metab Syndr 2018 Mar: 27(1): 4-24. doi: 10.7570/jomes.2018.27.1.4

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