When You Regain Weight

The other day I posted about my January weigh in and how I had gained 3.8 pounds since my December weigh in.  In fact, at the worst I had been up 8.1 pounds from December to January.  I had lost part of it by the time I weighed in, but a gain of 3.8 pounds was a lot for such a short period.

Anyhoo, I shared the blog post on my Facebook page for this blog.  One of my long time readers basically asked me why I did all the work to lose weight in order to put some weight back on.  Particularly given the surgery that I did.

Well, that is certainly a reasonable question to ask.  Why did I regain when I had worked so hard to lose weight and then had plastic surgery to get rid of loose skin and to improve my body contour.  I had gone through a lot to get where I am.  Why regain?

And, yes, of course there are reasons.  I didn’t just wake up in December and think that I wanted to gain almost 4 pounds (or 8 pounds for that matter).  Weight gain doesn’t usually just come out of nowhere.  I can certainly give reasons.  From mid-December to mid-January was a bad month.  The holiday and pre-holiday eating got out of control when I had a house guest.  Then we went out of town for several days in a situation where we weren’t going to be walking much to offset the eating out for all meals.  And, when we got back home things were non-routine.  First, I didn’t feel good for several days.  And, then the weather was awful and cold and we were mostly at home.  Then, my husband didn’t feel good.  So, we didn’t go to the Y and I wasn’t very active.  So, that all just piled on…and so did the pounds.

But, you know what?  None of those are particularly good reasons to gain weight.  I could have made better choices over the holidays.  In the past, I have in some years lost weight during December.  I made some poor food choices.  And, yes, the trip out of town was challenging.  But, the hotel had an exercise room that I could have used.  We even talked about using it.  I just didn’t.  And, I can feel bad and still stay on program, etc.  The reality was that I didn’t make maintaining my weight loss a priority during this period.

And, it is easy to look back on it and say that was foolish of me.  And, yes, I did work hard to get where I am so, no, I really don’t want to regain.  But, here is the thing.  Most people who lose weight regain some or all of the lost weight.  After I got to goal the first time over 25 years ago, I regained every lost pound…plus more.  In 2011, I had lost over 40 pounds when I had gone back to Weight Watchers.  During a stressful move in early 2012, I regained over 30 of those pounds.

People who lose weight usually regain at some point.  The idea that I will never regain any lost weight is one that is not realistic.  In my fantasy world, I never regain.  Well, weight can fluctuate a couple of pounds just due to water or a heavy meal.  I’ve been up 3 or 4 pounds for a day or two due to something like that.  I am not talking about that.  I am talking about real weight gain.

As I said — in the fantasy world, I’ve licked this and I never regain.  But, in the real world, life happens.  Sometimes, I am stressed.  Sometimes, other things are a priority.  Sometimes, I mentally regress from good habits and just eat mindlessly.  Sometimes, I decide to have dessert and then have several more snacks the same night.  Sometimes, I am a sloth and don’t want to exercise and I don’t.

None of that is admirable or good.  But, it is part of real life.  But, here is the thing.  A couple of weeks ago I was up 8.1 pounds.  By the time I weighed in 13 days later, I was only up 3.8 pounds.  I got hold of myself and realized that I needed to start paying attention.  Last year I had several months where I stagnated and slowly regained.  I ended up more than two pounds over my goal weight for a couple of months and had to pay.  I don’t want to do that again.  I certainly don’t want to regain 30 pounds or, even worse, 60 pounds.

So, what do you do when you regain?  For me, the most important thing is to have a sort of mental tripwire.  Something, that when I hit it I know I have to start paying attention and taking action right now.  I’ve seen people do this different ways.  Some people great red, yellow and green zones.  So I might say my green zone right now is to not weigh (at home) over 146 pounds.  Up to 150 might be yellow zone where I would watch it, and start being more careful but it isn’t urgent.  150 or above might be the red zone where I drop everything to go back into full losing mode.

I don’t actually have it that formalized.  But, currently my mental tripwire is about 150 pounds.  When we got back from our trip and I went over 150 pounds at home, I took notice of that and really started working on staying on track.  Note, I had tracked my food during the entire time I was off track.  I just hadn’t paid attention to the fact I was eating too much.  It was always…I’ll get back on tract tomorrow, or Saturday, or when we get home, or when I feel better, etc.

To set a mental tripwire, of course, you have to accept the likelihood that you will at some point have a regain.  Having a regain is not actually a big deal.  It is perfectly normal and expected.  It isn’t desirable, but it isn’t the end of the world.  Accepting that possibility is key to being able to set the mental tripwire.  When I regained the 30 pounds in 2012, I didn’t want to think about the regain.  Somewhere inside me, I knew it was there but I didn’t want to think about it.  I didn’t want to face it.  I felt like a failure.  I knew I “shouldn’t” have regained.  With that kind of mindset, it is hard to set a tripwire.  It is hard to face that you have regained.  And, if you can’t face that you have regained, it is hard to lose the weight you regained.

Once you have accepted the regain and accept you need to lose weight, it is often not that hard to do.  I am not worried about losing that 3.8 pounds.  It will, alas, likely take me longer to lose it than it took me to gain.  No, I am not happy about that.  I don’t like having to lose 3.8 pounds that I already lost before.  But, I would rather loose 3.8 pounds than ignore it and end up having to lose 10 or 20 pounds or worse.

I know how to lose 3.8 pounds.  I can do that.  I’ve done it before.  That is the silver lining of a regain for me.  I always know that I can lose the weight again because I have done it before.  I have confidence that I can do it.  No, I don’t want to have to do it.  But, that doesn’t change the reality.  When I decided in late 2014 to lose that 30 pounds I regained in 2012, I didn’t like that I had to do it.  I didn’t like facing the fact that I had to lose 30 pounds that I had worked so hard to lose.  But, that was simply reality.  I either had to lose that 30 pounds again or I had to stay overweight.  I picked (finally) losing the 30 pounds again.

So — regains happen.  There is usually a reason or many reasons.  Could be a good reason or a bad reason.  That really doesn’t matter.  What matters is to accept it as soon as you can and then get onto losing it again.  Yes, of course, it can make sense to analyze what happened.  That can help you to avoid regain in the future.  Yes, of course, it can make sense to think about whether you need to chance something in your weight loss plan.  All of that is perfectly reasonable to look at.  But, the biggest thing is to simply acknowledge the gain and decide to lose the weight again and start acting on that decision.





  1. Debbie Dovel says

    Good for you – I so appreciate your honesty! I’ve lost and regained and lost again over the years, most recently lost 50+ lbs, missed WW meetings for about 3 months and had regained 15 lbs! I was upset and sad that’d I gained so much back, but like you, I know what to do. It’s not the end of the world when you regain some of the weight – it’s just LIFE! I always say “I may never reach lifetime membership with Weight Watcher, but I will BE a Weight Watcher member for LIFE!” I know where to go when I regain, and I know that even with the 15 lbs, 5 of which I’ve lost this month AGAIN!, I am healthier and more in control of my eating habits than I’ve been for most of my adult life. It’s not in losing the weight that you become happier – it’s in accepting the fact that whether you are losing or just trying to keep it off, that YOU CAN DO IT, and the journey isn’t over til we leave this earth!

  2. Maggie says

    I think most of the people who offer criticism about regaining have never struggled with this problem and have no idea how challenging it is to keep the weight from coming back.
    Kudos to you and your efforts, and thanks for your blog.

  3. Julie says

    I have gained and lost the same 10 pounds for the last 6 months. I think I’m starting to go down again for good. All these newbies at WW are getting their 5 and 10 pound awards and I’m sitting there thinking that I could have been at goal by now. Maybe this is part of my future long time success and it will help. I’ve had some physical challenges that have impacted my activity level. I like your red, yellow, and green cautions. Hopefully I can get a grip and continue with my weight loss. Hang in there and thanks for being real.

    • says

      Remember on the newbies … it is much easier to lose weight early on than later. Don’t compare yourself to them. Compare yourself in terms of whether you are doing what you think you need to be doing.

  4. carol says

    Hi, I like your realistic and practical approach to this issue. Getting overly dramatic about regained weight doesn’t help — far from it, you start to feel overwhelmed and helpless — when in fact you have the experience and the tools you need to get back on track. Thanks for pointing this out!

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