What do I need to do if I want to maintain my weight?
Reaching a weight you're happy with doesn't mean you can slack off.
To maintain a particular weight, you need to work out (and watch what you eat) just as much as when you were trying to lose (or gain) some kilograms.
When we think of cardio, we think of weight loss. Cardiovascular activity – whether it's walking, running, cycling, rowing, or any other form – is necessary for everybody who wants to maintain a certain weight, too.
According to the Framington Heart Study, which is a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular cohort study that began in 1948 and is currently in its third generation of participants, those who successfully maintain their weight long-term incorporate two key elements into their life.
Essential is one hour or more every day of "moderate intensity" activity, which will burn 2000-3000 calories each week as exercise.
Long-term weight maintainers also incorporate a significant amount of ad-hoc physical activity into their days, e.g. taking the stairs, vacuuming the house, and so on.
Moderate intensity cardio is anything from a brisk walk or light cycle upwards. It doesn't have to all be at once – you could do two 30-minute sessions per day, but you do have to do them every day to maintain that weight.
You needn't do cardio to maintain your weight, however. You can do strength training with weights, or – perhaps most ideally – alternating between this and cardio.
Strength training enables you to maintain a lean muscle mass and this keeps your metabolism functioning at a high rate. When this is happening, you burn off energy faster instead of storing it as fat.
And for those worried about "bulking up", make no mistake: a few of days of weight training per week is not going to turn you into a bodybuilder.
Findings over the last seven decades from the Framington Study (and other similar, long-term studies) also provide us with helpful lifestyle tips on maintaining weight.
Important is weighing yourself on a weekly basis. The objective here is not to worry here over any small weight gain – people generally fluctuate up to one kilogram depending on the time of day, and volume of food and liquid consumed/eliminated anyway.
Instead, it's to keep tabs on your weight and make adjustments to your nutritional and exercise needs if you see a week-on-week trend upward or downward.
People who maintain the same weight throughout their lives also watch less than 16 hours of television per week, which lends evenings to other kinds of activities which will burn more energy – even if it's only slightly – than sitting on a couch.
In case you need the maths done for you, that means you should max out at two hours in front of the box per day.
Those who successfully maintain their weight also maintain a social support network of like-minded people.
If you do away with the support system that helped you get to your goal weight – whether that was a friend in the same situation, or a formal programme like Weight Watchers – it's easy to fall back into old habits. Statistically, those who keep those social contact circles in place are less likely to regain any weight lost than those who don't.
This approach also applies to your diet. Once you're happy with your weight, to maintain it you must make your dietary changes part of your regular lifestyle.
This is one of the reason why health professionals do not advocate "cleanses" and other fad dieting techniques. They're just not sustainable in the long term.
You needn't be as strict with yourself for weight maintenance as you must for weight loss or gain. You are allowed to treat yourself: one slice of chocolate cake isn't going to cause your weight to change.
However, you should apply the same general dietary concept that works for you into your daily life. It could be high protein/low carb, Mediterranean, vegetarian, or something else. The point is sticking with it so it doesn't feel like a diet – it's "just the way you eat".
* Lee Suckling has a masters degree specialising in personal health reporting. Do you have a health topic you'd like Lee to investigate? Send us an email to email@example.com with Dear Lee in the subject line.