Keeping weight off requires different approach than losing it

You’ve probably heard that weight loss is 80 percent diet/20 percent exercise. And diet does indeed play a humongous role in how much weight you lose… or gain.

That’s because weight loss ultimately comes down to achieving a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you’re consuming).

You can exercise until every muscle on your body aches, but if you follow that vigorous workout with a double bacon burger, fries, and a milkshake, you’re still probably consuming more calories than your burning.

And let’s face it…

Burning calories through exercise is harder than cutting calories through diet. You can easily cut out 500 calories by giving up soda and your morning bagel or eating a slice or two less pizza for dinner. But to burn 500 calories you’d have to do an intense hour-long aerobics class or run for 45 minutes at a pace equivalent to running a 10-minute mile. Most of us don’t have the time or energy to exercise that vigorously daily.

So, if you want to lose weight, focus mostly on cutting calories in your diet and complement that with a modest calorie burn in realistic daily workouts.

But what about maintaining the weight loss you’ve already achieved? Do the same rules apply?

Well, even though 80/20 is the rule to live by if you’re trying to shed pounds. A new study shows you may want to take a different approach once you’ve lost the weight and you’re trying to keep it off…

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Exercise outdoes diet when it comes to maintaining weight loss

A recent study from the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC) shows exercise may trump diet when it comes to maintaining weight loss.

The study looked at the habits of people who’d lost 30 pounds within a year and kept it off. And it appears, these folks maintained their calorie balance by staying super active rather than watching their calorie intake.

In fact, researchers found that the people who maintained their weight loss consumed much more calories than people of average weight who hadn’t lost weight. These weight loss maintainers consumed a similar number of calories as people who were overweight and obese. They just exercised a lot more. To give you an idea of the difference in activity levels observed in the study…

People maintaining weight loss got about 12,000 steps per day. People with an average body weight who hadn’t lost weight got 9,000 steps and overweight/obese people got 6,500 steps.

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Move more to maintain weight loss

This study is great news for anyone who’s lost pounds in the past and wants to keep them off. Why?

Because it means you don’t have to deprive yourself to do it. However, you do have to stay serious about your activity levels. As I mentioned earlier, it can be challenging to find the time and energy to do this. But if you get creative, it’s totally possible.

If you want to squeeze in 12,000 steps per day (about six miles) like the people in the study you can:

  1. Walk your dog before or after work
  2. Walk during your lunch break
  3. Walk to a co-worker’s desk to talk instead of emailing
  4. Walk to the grocery store
  5. Take business calls while you’re walking
  6. Park at the far end of every parking lot
  7. Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  8. Try a treadmill desk
  9. March in place during commercial breaks
  10. Take a short walk after every meal (it’s supposed to improve digestion)
  11. Do a few extra laps around grocery stores and malls
  12. Turn get-togethers with friends and family into walks

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  1. Is Weight Loss Really 80 Percent Diet and 20 Percent Exercise? — Women’s Health
  2. 20 Ways To Burn 500 Calories — Breaking Muscle
  3. 50 Ways to Burn 500 Calories; Fifty 500 Calorie Workouts — Fitness Blender
  4. Study reveals exercise is more critical than diet to maintain weight loss — MedicalXpress
  5. 25 Simple Ways to Get More Steps In Your Day — Health
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and