It’s hard enough as it is to lose weight, and the more we learn, the more we find how many factors stack up against our efforts to maintain our progress. A review of the literature on weight loss maintenance and weight regain has narrowed down the potential reasons for why keeping the weight off is so difficult. To help us understand why weight maintenance is tough, it helps to consider what makes it successful to begin with. 

What Makes Weight Maintenance Successful? 

According to this literature review, successful weight maintenance is associated with: 


  1. Greater Initial Weight Loss 
    • The more weight you lose at the start of your weight loss efforts correlates with how well you can keep your total weight loss off. 
  2. Reaching a Self-Determined Goal Weight 
    • There is potentially a psychological benefit to setting a goal and achieving it that helps you maintain the results of all your effort. 
  3. Having a Physically Active Lifestyle 
    • This can be understood to mean that those who lose weight strictly by dieting will have a harder time maintaining weight loss than those who also incorporate physical activity into their lifestyle. 
  4. A Regular Meal Rhythm That Includes Breakfast and Healthier Eating 
    • Numerous studies have already determined that individuals who eat breakfast are more likely to control their weight,1 so we’re not at all surprised by this one. 
  5. Control of Over-Eating and Self-Monitoring of Behaviors 
    • The ability to practice self-control and to monitor our own behaviors is not a natural skill. It takes practice and will-power to master our involuntary impulses. 

These 5 items are all things you can do. You can work for greater initial weight loss, you can add physical activity to your lifestyle, you can change your nutrition habits.

The following factors also contribute highly to successfully maintaining weight loss, but they are not as easy to manipulate.

According to the same literature review, part of your success is also owed to:

  1. Your Internal Motivation 
    • This is perhaps the reason most of us struggle to start with or stick to plans that we think will be difficult to accomplish. 
  2. Your Level of Social Support 
    • It’s not just a matter of having a support system but a question of how easily you turn to them when you need support. 
  3. Better Coping Strategies and Your Ability to Handle Life Stress  
    • Poor coping strategies can involve eating in response to negative emotions and stress.2 
  4. Self-Efficacy 
    • This is the belief that you can do the things you set out to do. 
  5. Autonomy  
    • This is the ability to make your own informed decisions. 
  6. Your Ability to Assume Responsibility 
    • How well do you take-on tasks that are presented to you? 
  7. Greater Psychological Strength and Stability 
    • How effectively can you check-in with your emotions, recover from setbacks, and recognize maladaptive behaviors? 

In this list we can see how much our psychological, social, emotional, and environmental situations all contribute to our overall ability to care for our health. We haven’t even touched the biological factors that make our individual endeavors more difficult. The bottom line is, there is never ONE reason why you are struggling with maintaining your weight loss. 

Why We Regain Weight

Now that we can clearly see the common factors among those who are successful, we can easily run through those lists and identify which factors are playing a part in our personal struggle. A lot of it is founded in our ability to adhere to certain routines and to new habits. An equally important piece comes in the form of our emotional and psychological strength and the type of support we have.  

What Can We Do About It?

If all these things are tied together, it seems that a person would need a life that is perfect in all ways in order to achieve and maintain their goals. However, we know that no one has a perfect life, and yet there are successful people everywhere. How do they do it and what can we learn from their success that we can apply to our own approach?  

The answer to that is attempted in “Keep the Weight Off” articles everywhere. Everyone has their own idea of which approach works best. Yes, there is some cross-over, but a lot of the advice typically goes back to something along the lines of “watch what you eat” and “do more exercise.” However, if any of the above factors mean anything, the real answer should be something only you can determine based on your individual circumstances. 

Take some time today to think through areas in your life that, if improved, can help you set a foundation for success. A strong foundation can make the difference you need to get where you’re trying to go. 

We invite you to share what you plan to tackle to increase your total wellness and to establish a stronger base. Let us know in the comments below! To read our dietitian’s advice for Slow Weight-Loss, How to Handle a Weight-Loss Plateau, or How to Calculate Your New Calorie Limits After Weight-Loss, click the links to read the QA’s. For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 


  1. Davis, Jeanie Lerche. “Lose Weight: Eat Breakfast.” WebMD, WebMD, 31 Aug. 2010,  
  2. Elfhag, K., and S. Rössner. “Who Succeeds in Maintaining Weight Loss? A Conceptual Review of Factors Associated with Weight Loss Maintenance and Weight Regain.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 10 Jan. 2005, 



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