width=106Is there anything more frustrating and guilt-inducing than losing weight only to see those pounds slowly creep back on?

The long-term success rates of diets is shockingly low. Figures vary on this, but at best, about 10% of dieters manage to maintain their new, lower weight.

So, what can you do to make sure you don't stand on the scales one day only to realise you're back to square one?

While You're Dieting

There are several things you can do while losing weight to maximise your chances of keeping it off:

  • Go slowly: The longer it takes you to lose weight, the more likely you are to maintain.
  • Change your habits: Seek out a diet plan that helps re-educate your eating habits.
  • Don't ban foods: Banning foods (like chocolate, cheese, etc) can make you crave them even more. It can also cause problems when you come off your diet - you won't have learnt to indulge sensibly in these.
  • Take exercise: This will help you lose weight faster, plus establishing an exercise routine will help you maintain a steady weight once you've reached your target. The muscle you build up also helps out by burning extra calories, even when you're at rest.

While You're Maintaining

Once you've reached your target weight (ideally a BMI between 20 and 25), the hard work isn't over. If you go straight back to how you were eating before your diet, of course you'll gain weight. Instead:

  • Increase calories gradually: If you were eating 500 calories fewer per day than your maintenance level, try going up just 250 per day for a couple of weeks - otherwise you may find you gain a couple of pounds straight away.
  • Weigh regularly: Don't hide the scales away. Keep weighing yourself weekly - you'll quickly notice if your weight's creeping up, and you can take early action.
  • Stick to good habits: If you managed to kick the daily-candy-bar habit whilst dieting, don't let it creep back in. If you switched from whole-fat milk to skim milk, stay with it.
  • Get support: Many dieters who joined a group such as Weight Watchers stick with it after reaching their goal - the support and accountability helps them to maintain.
  • Adjust when necessary: If you do find that you've put on a pound a week for a month, put yourself back on a diet. Keeping a food diary, avoiding dessert, or reducing all portions by a quarter can be enough to see those pounds drop off again.

If you've successfully lost weight and maintained it, how much did you lose? How did you stay as your new trim self? Share your stories and tips in the comments, or on Diet Blog Share!