The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: How Not to Regain That Lost Weight

13 Sep

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing.  You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do.  In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

If you’ve ever dropped some pounds only to pick every single one back up, then you know firsthand how tough it is to keep weight off once you’ve shed it. Just one in six overweight or obese people who slim down manage to stay that way!   Now, two reports reveal why—and what might help you convince Mother Nature (and your metabolism) to protect your weight loss.

First, there was the headline-grabbing study that tracked 14 Biggest Loser contestants for six years after their season on that wildly popular TV reality show. The contestants lost about 127 pounds apiece (yes, each lost about that) through strict diets and relentless exercise regimens. They radically reshaped their bodies. Some lost more than 200 pounds! And their health improved in countless ways.

Fast-forward six years. Most contestants regained much of the weight they’d lost—on average, about 90 pounds each (although many remained at least 10% slimmer than when they started the show, reducing their risk for diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and other major health problems ).

A few contestants weighed more than they had before the show.  Why was weight maintenance so difficult?

The answer jumped out when researchers measured the contestants’ resting metabolic rate—the number of calories burned by the body ‘round the clock. The results were shocking. Before their participation in the show began, their metabolic rates were normal. Right after their appearance on the show ended, their metabolic rate had dipped. That was to be expected as it normally occurs following weight loss. But here’s the kicker…

Six years later, the contestants’ bodies were burning about 500 fewer calories every day than expected based on their age and body composition. Their post-weight-loss metabolic dip had never reversed itself. In some cases, a contestant’s metabolism slowed even more as the years went by. And as they gained weight back, their metabolism stayed sluggish. Mother Nature, it seems, was doing everything possible to make their bodies regain weight—a survival tool in prehistoric times of severe famine, a big challenge for 21st-century dieters!

This info coupled with other recent studies on metabolism and weight loss can help you succeed at a task that’s even tougher than losing weight: keeping it off.

Here’s what to do… You must build more muscle mass, especially as you age. Your muscles drive your metabolism, whether you’re sleeping or sweatin’ along to a YouTube exercise video.  The more muscle mass you have (usually), the higher your calorie burn rate. So the smart move is to lose weight slowly, preserving more muscle mass than extreme weight-loss programs allow.

Feed your muscles—then make ‘em work: During your weight-loss phase and afterward, be sure you’re building muscle as you lose fat and are eating enough protein (my favorites are nuts, beans, quinoa, egg whites, and salmon) to feed lean, sexy muscle. Build and maintain muscles with strength-training two to three times a week while losing and after.  Then, boost your metabolism further by adding short bursts of faster, higher-intensity aerobic activity to some of your cardio work-outs, going for 10,000 steps a day.

Try interval walking: Walk faster for 30 seconds, then back to your usual pace for a minute, repeat a couple of times.

And most importantly, keep the weight down for a year. That’s right, give yourself a year to let your new weight become your “new normal.” A recent University of Copenhagen study found that levels of the “feed me!” hormone ghrelin rise during weight loss, urging you to eat and making it tough to maintain a lower weight. But if you stick to your healthy eating and exercise plan it’ll get easier—we promise! The researchers found that ghrelin levels drop to normal about a year after weight loss.

Slash stress. Stress boosts your levels of the appetite-stimulating hormones.  Turn to exercise, progressive muscle relaxation (breathe calmly as you tense and relax muscle groups from your toes to your head), yoga, time with friends, and your favorite hobby to soothe stress instead of reaching for sweets and snacks.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions—to, and some of them we may know enough to answer (we’ll try to get answers for you if we do not know).

Young Dr Mike Roizen (aka, The Enforcer)


 NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice. This article is of the opinion of its author. Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.


You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week).  The YOU docs have tow newly revised books: The patron saint “book” of this column YOU Staying Young—revised and YOU: The Owner’s Manual…revised —yes a revision of the book that started Dr Oz to being Dr OzThese makes great gifts—so do YOU: ON a Diet and YOU: The Owner’s Manual for teens.  And, the new book by Dr Mike Roizen: This is YOUR Do-Over


Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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