What Causes You to Lose Weight & Gain It Right Back?

Skipping meals can cause dieters to regain lost weight.
Skipping meals can cause dieters to regain lost weight. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Although 103 million Americans successfully lost weight in 2010-2011, two-thirds of the dieters were unable to keep it off, according to a survey conducted by the Calorie Control Council. Maintaining weight loss may be more challenging than actually shedding pounds, since maintenance is a long-term process compared to the relatively short amount of time it takes to reach a desired weight goal. Several factors determine whether lost weight will come back quickly.

Extremely Low-Calorie Diets

Dieters who participate in extremely low-calorie diets also experience a drop in their metabolic rate, according to the University of Chicago. As a result, the body goes into “starvation mode" and burns fewer calories each day. That’s why it’s difficult for people on extreme diets to lose weight for an extended period of time, and it’s also why these individuals tend to regain lost weight. As the Diet Channel explains, an individual who originally needed 2,000 calories per day might only need 1,850 calories per day after an extremely restrictive diet is over. Because of a lowered metabolic rate, the body now needs 150 fewer calories per day. However, unless this person decreases the original caloric intake, those extra 150 daily calories amount to a one-pound weight gain every 24 days.

Return to Bad Habits

Even dieters who don’t engage in an extremely restrictive diet are susceptible to weight gain if they fail to maintain their weight loss regimen. Healthy eating is a way of life, not a temporary fix to a weight problem. Dieters who switched to lean meats, fruits and vegetables and avoided such items as pizza, ice cream and other fattening foods must continue along this course to maintain their weight loss. Failing to be consistent -- especially on weekends, holidays, vacations and other special days -- can quickly pack the pounds back on.

Not Enough Exercise

Lack of exercise is another factor that can contribute to regaining lost weight. The University of Chicago states that physical activity that burns 1,500 to 2,000 calories per week helps to maintain weight loss. Physical activity does not have to be as strenuous as running, riding a bicycle or playing tennis. It can also include walking or climbing the stairs, according to the University researchers.

Other Considerations

There are several other habits that can contribute to regaining lost weight, including failure to exercise portion control. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one quarter of your plate should contain a palm-size portion of lean meat such as salmon or chicken breast. Another quarter should contain a fist-size portion of unrefined grains like brown rice. One half of the plate should contain an assortment of different-colored vegetables. The Clinic also lists skipping meals and failing to eat breakfast as reasons why dieters can’t maintain weight loss.

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