woman looking at her slimmed waistline

Long-Term Weight Management: A Doctor’s Perspective

Long-term weight management involves adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and behavioral changes. It is important for overall health as it reduces the risk of various conditions. Setting realistic and specific goals, monitoring progress, and seeking support are key steps in achieving successful weight loss. Strategies for keeping the weight off include monitoring caloric intake, prioritizing physical activity, and practicing mindful eating. Professional guidance and medical treatments may be necessary for some individuals. Skipping meals and fasting should be carefully considered, and a comprehensive approach is necessary for lasting success.

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Weight loss is a journey that requires a life-long commitment rather than following restrictive or fad diets. Learning how to lose weight naturally in a way that is long-term involves making sustainable changes to eating habits, and choosing a lifestyle that places importance on whole foods and regular physical activity. The goal is to achieve a balance that fosters both immediate and long-term health benefits, reducing the risks of serious health problems associated with excessive body weight and being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle that works for you.

How Long-Term Weight Management Works

Weight management is a broad concept that includes the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle for weight maintenance. This involves a combination of a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and behavioral changes aimed at controlling energy input and output. Effective weight management not only helps achieve a healthy weight but also sustains it in the long term.

Long-term weight management is important for overall health as it can reduce the risk of various conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. By focusing on sustainable habits rather than short-term fixes, individuals can better manage their weight and improve their overall well-being.

Research shows that losing approximately 5% – 10% of your body weight can result in significant health improvements, including better blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar.1

woman looking at her slimmed waistline

Additionally, people who experience gradual weight loss (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more likely to maintain their results as opposed to those who lose drastic amounts.

Setting Goals for a Healthier You

For a successful weight loss journey, setting realistic and specific goals is important. Here are some recommended steps that you can take to set achievable goals for your weight loss journey.

  • Assess readiness by evaluating your motivation, distractions, stress coping mechanisms, and time commitment.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people and be accountable to yourself or others.
  • Specific: Define clear goals, such as walking 30 minutes daily or adding more fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal.
  • Measurable: Use tools like nutrition apps for tracking different health parameters.
  • Achievable: Start with a goal of losing 1-2 pounds per week, combining exercise with a reduced-calorie diet.
  • Realistic: Consider your current lifestyle and limitations. Aiming for a slow, steady rate of weight loss increases long-term success.
  • Timely: Set time-bound goals, focusing on two or three at a time for manageability.
  • Keep a food and physical activity diary to understand your habits.
  • Instead of solely focusing on the scale, track non-scale victories like measurements, photos, and fitness improvements.
  • Regularly reassess and adjust goals as needed to ensure they remain challenging yet achievable.

This structured approach not only helps in setting realistic expectations but also in maintaining motivation and measuring progress effectively. Please note that activity levels differ from person to person depending on overall health status. Always consult your primary care provider before beginning a fitness and diet plan.

Effective Strategies for Keeping the Weight Off

Once you start shedding those extra pounds, it’s important to maintain your goal weight. That includes being consistent in dietary changes, physical activity, and behavioral changes. Many diets, for example, are too restrictive or difficult to maintain over time, leading to eventual relapse into old eating habits.

See Table 1 for key points to consider for keeping the weight off in each category.

Nutrition Physical Activity Behavior
Monitor Caloric Intake:Keep track of calories to avoid overeating Prioritize Physical Activity: Engage in regular exercise. Consult with your doctor what activity levels may be the best option for you Self-monitoring: Track dietary intake and physical activity as a cornerstone of behavioral treatment
Maintain Regular Eating Patterns: Aim to eat every 3-4 hours to stabilize blood sugar levels and manage hunger Include Strength Training: Helps in building lean muscle mass, which can increase metabolism and aid in weight maintenance Environmental Management: Modify your surroundings to reduce temptations and encourage healthy choices, such as having fruits and vegetables readily available
Choose Healthy Foods and Drinks: Opt for whole foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit or eliminate sugary beverages Find Enjoyable Activities: Consistency is easier to achieve when the exercise is enjoyable Seek Support: Connect with like-minded individuals or join support groups for motivation
Practice Mindful Eating: Be present during meals, savoring each bite, which can help in recognizing fullness signals Manage Stress: Utilize techniques like deep breathing or meditation to handle stress without turning to food

Table 1

Advanced Options for Weight Management

The role of professional guidance in weight management can be pivotal for individuals looking to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable manner. Healthcare professionals may begin the weight management process with a thorough assessment of different health parameters such as BMI, waist circumference, and overall health. This information will be used to guide their recommendations based on your unique needs.

Your primary care provider might have to work with other specialists such as dieticians, physical therapists and behavioral counselors to cater to your emotional and physical wellbeing throughout the weight management plan.

Medical Treatments for Obesity

There are several medical treatments for obesity that are typically divided into non-surgical and surgical.

Non-surgical methods comprise medication that facilitate weight loss by curbing appetite and hunger, resulting in satiation and reduced calorie intake. Medication should always be discussed with your healthcare provider before and is usually considered for individuals who have failed to achieve weight loss goals after implementing comprehensive lifestyle intervention. Realistic expectations must be set while on obesity medication.

Popular drugs for weight loss include tirzepatide and semaglutide.

According to Johns Hopkins University, tirzepatide – an injection given once per week – may offer similar results to weight loss surgery. Tirzepatide curbs appetite, regulates blood sugar levels, and triggers the production of insulin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), a hormone that regulates insulin and glucose levels. Consequently, overall calorie intake is reduced and may result in significant weight loss and improvements in metabolic health.

Semaglutide is the synthetic form of GLP-1. Similar to tirzepatide, it is also an injection given once a week, resulting in reduced appetite, longer digestion time, and improved blood sugar control. Research shows that this drug may reduce the risk of obesity-related complications such as cardiovascular incidents.2

Surgical intervention is recommended for patients who have tried other medical therapies but have failed to lose weight or who have complications from obesity and have been evaluated by a behavioral therapist. Common surgical options include gastric bypass or gastric banding, an invasive surgery that aids weight loss by altering how your stomach and small intestine respond to the food you eat.

The Reality About Meal Skipping

Research indicates that while skipping meals may reduce energy intake and aid in weight loss over time, it can lead to a decline in the quality of food consumed, which may have a negative impact on health in the long run.3

Additionally, skipping meals rarely results in long-term weight loss and can negatively impact metabolism, as fat storage is increased and metabolism decreases when food intake is skipped for extended periods.

The decision to skip meals should be carefully considered, as it not only affects daily energy intake and weight management but also has implications for overall diet quality and health outcomes. It’s essential to consult with a registered dietitian to develop an eating plan that aligns with your health needs and weight loss goals.

Understanding Fasting vs. Calorie Counting

Fasting and keeping a calorie count are two distinct approaches to managing food intake. Fasting involves abstaining from consuming food for a specific period, typically ranging from several hours to a full day or more. This approach often alternates between periods of eating and fasting. On the other hand, keeping a calorie count involves monitoring the number of calories consumed throughout the day, with an emphasis on creating a calorie deficit for weight loss or maintenance.

While fasting primarily focuses on when to eat, calorie counting emphasizes what and how much to eat. Both methods can be used for weight management, but they employ different mechanisms to achieve their goals. You need to consider which option might be the best one for you based on personal preferences, lifestyle, and daily routine.

Tips for Long-Term Weight Management

Maintaining weight loss achievements involves acknowledging both the physical and mental aspects of transformation. Here are key strategies that you can incorporate into your daily life.

  • Celebrate Small Victories: Recognize and celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, as these successes maintain motivation throughout the weight loss journey.
  • Embrace Imperfection and Practice Self-Compassion: Understand that perfection is unattainable. Mistakes and setbacks are part of the journey. Showing kindness to oneself during these times can prevent discouragement and help maintain focus on the overall goal.
  • Hydration: Staying properly hydrated is crucial for overall health and enhances exercise performance, making it a key component of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Mental Transformation: Adopting a positive mindset and making a conscious effort to change unhealthy habits are essential for lasting success.
  • Comprehensive Approach: Lasting change comes from a complete lifestyle overhaul, not just temporary diet or exercise adjustments.

Collaborating with healthcare professionals who have a patient-centered mindset, acknowledging the unique needs and challenges each individual faces, can lay the groundwork for both weight loss and weight maintenance. Shared decision-making can help create sustainable weight loss plans and not only foster confidence, but also increase the likelihood of long-term success.


How can I maintain my weight long term?

To maintain your weight long-term, focus on a balanced diet, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits.

What is the best strategy for long-term weight loss?

The best strategy for long-term weight loss is to maintain a healthy diet, engage in regular physical activity, and make sustainable lifestyle changes.

What is the best long-term treatment for obesity?

The best long-term treatment for obesity involves a combination of regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and behavioral changes for sustainable weight management.

What is long-term weight management?

Long-term weight management refers to the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight over time.

Last Words

Navigating the complex journey of weight loss necessitates a holistic approach, emphasizing sustainable lifestyle changes over quick fixes. Throughout this article, we’ve explored various facets of healthy weight management, from debunking common myths to adopting effective strategies for lasting success. By integrating balanced dietary habits, regular physical exercise, and a positive mindset, individuals can embark on a path toward achieving and maintaining optimal health.

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[1] Ryan DH, Yockey SR. Weight Loss and Improvement in Comorbidity: Differences at 5%, 10%, 15%, and Over. Curr Obes Rep. 2017 Jun;6(2):187-194. doi: 10.1007/s13679-017-0262-y. PMID: 28455679; PMCID: PMC5497590.

[2] Lincoff AM, Brown-Frandsen K, Colhoun HM, Deanfield J, Emerson SS, Esbjerg S, Hardt-Lindberg S, Hovingh GK, Kahn SE, Kushner RF, Lingvay I, Oral TK, Michelsen MM, Plutzky J, Tornøe CW, Ryan DH; SELECT Trial Investigators. Semaglutide and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Obesity without Diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2023 Dec 14;389(24):2221-2232. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2307563. Epub 2023 Nov 11. PMID: 37952131.

[3] Zeballos E, Todd JE. The effects of skipping a meal on daily energy intake and diet quality. Public Health Nutr. 2020 Dec;23(18):3346-3355. doi: 10.1017/S1368980020000683. Epub 2020 May 13. PMID: 32398192; PMCID: PMC10200470.

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