Written on March 19, 2023 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Weight management is the process of reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight. Obesity is a disease affecting millions of Americans. However, the process of weight management is not limited to people with obesity. Everyone has to consider weight management for long-term health.
It's common for people to focus on short-term weight loss goals without building healthy, sustainable lifestyle habits. Only 25% of people following a low-calorie diet successfully maintain weight loss over the long term . If you are on a weight loss journey, now is the time to start thinking about maintaining your results.
According to studies, several key factors can affect your ability to maintain weight loss [1,2]. This article will discuss these factors along with strategies to achieve and maintain your goal weight [3,4]. After reading this article, you will know the answer to the "what is weight management?" and feel more empowered on your weight management journey.
Obesity is a multifactorial disease. As a result, weight management is a multifactorial process. Factors affecting weight management can come from internal sources (i.e., genetics) or external sources (i.e., physical environment). Your weight management journey is unique, and the impact of the following factors will vary from person to person.
Your genes may influence your ability to maintain a healthy weight [5-8]. Research indicates multiple gene mutations can alter a person's appetite, making weight management more difficult. This type of obesity is called polygenic obesity . Although you cannot test for these mutations, it is important to remember this when managing your weight.
The MC4R gene is one of the most studied genetic alterations affecting weight . The MC4R gene regulates leptin, a hormone responsible for controlling your appetite . MC4R gene mutations are associated with early-onset childhood obesity and can increase high-fat food cravings . However, genes play only a minor role in most people's weight management compared to the other factors contributing to weight management .
Medical conditions can make weight management more difficult. Your medical condition may impair your ability to stay physically active or alter your ability to metabolize food. Common medical conditions linked to weight gain include [1,8]:
Medications can also limit your ability to manage your weight. Common medications associated with weight gain include depression medications, corticosteroids, and insulin. People with diabetes use insulin to control their blood sugar levels . New medications called glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists (GLP-1s) are available for people with and without diabetes for weight management .
Levels of hormones can affect your weight management journey. Insulin is a hormone linked to weight gain, as are thyroid hormones. Your thyroid hormones control how your body metabolizes food. When you have hypothyroidism, you lack adequate levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Without effective levels of these hormones, your metabolism may slow and cause weight gain. You can check the health of your thyroid with Everlywell's thyroid test.
Stress can impair weight management in multiple ways . Stress decreases your ability to self-regulate, leading to more mindless eating . Stress can also cause your body to produce hormones that may harm your weight management journey . Cortisol, the body's "stress hormone," can lead to weight gain by increasing your appetite . Stress can also reduce sleep quality, leading to weight gain . Everlywell's sleep and stress test can give you insight into your cortisol levels.
Stress can affect the quality of your sleep, as well as sleep disorders. Poor sleep quality is linked to weight regain within the first year after weight loss and a higher risk of obesity [10,11]. Lack of sleep can also increase your hunger levels, leading to more frequent snacking and weight gain . Adults require at least 7 hours of sleep per night . When trying to improve the quality of your sleep, ensure your sleeping environment is dark and free of distractions.
In the same way that your sleeping environment is essential to falling asleep, weight management also requires a healthy physical environment . People living in food deserts, areas without access to food, have a 30% higher chance of obesity . Rural area residents also have a greater risk of obesity than urban residents .
People who feel they have control of their environments tend to maintain their weight better than people who don't feel in control of their lives . Additionally, eating at home is a strong predictor for long-term weight management [1,13].
Remember that a healthy physical environment also means a healthy social environment, including your home, educational, and work environments . Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the factors in a person's environment that determine their health status and quality of life [8,14]. There are five domains of SDOH :
SDOHs can significantly impact weight management . Maintaining a healthy weight is easier when you surround yourself with health-conscious friends and live in an environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle.
The strategies used for weight loss and weight management are often similar. However, many strategies used for short-term weight loss are not sustainable for long-term weight management. Multiple weight management strategies exist. No single approach is universally considered the most effective. The strategies discussed below are only a few examples that may help your weight management journey [3,4,15-19].
Know your TDEE: Understanding your TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure, is the key to managing your weight. Your TDEE is an estimate of the calories you burn each day. It is calculated by multiplying your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by your activity level. Your BMR represents how many calories you burn at rest. Your BMR depends on your age, sex, current weight, and height. You can manage your weight better once you know how many calories you can eat daily.
Set SMART goals: Setting healthy diet and lifestyle goals is critical to weight management. Aiming for short-term SMART goals along your weight management journey can make the process more manageable. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound . Let's break it down:
Exercise frequently: Finding an exercise you enjoy is important for weight management. Moderate-intensity exercises such as cycling or brisk walking are easy options to consider. Incorporating physical activities throughout the day can also help increase your TDEE.
Drink water: Drinking water throughout the day rather than sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is one of the easiest ways to reduce calorie intake.
Eat whole foods: Eating a variety of whole foods is one of the best ways to manage weight. Vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins are examples of whole foods. Processed foods often have excess calories, sugar, and salt, which can harm your weight management efforts. The Mediterranean and DASH diets are two examples of healthy long-term eating habits.
Eat mindfully: Planning your meals, including portion sizes and timing, are ways to eat mindfully. You may find it beneficial to designate a specific area in your home for eating meals.
Join a weight management program: Joining a weight management program can provide the educational and emotional support you need for long-term weight management. Research shows weight management programs are often more effective than a do-it-yourself approach [18,19].
Weight management is not a one-size-fits-all process. This is where Everlywell can help. Everlywell's online weight management program creates customized care plans based on your weight goals. The program includes virtual care visits and medication if needed.
Everlywell offers access to healthy weight loss options that speak your body's language. Visit the FAQs section of the online weight management page if you have any questions about how Everlywell can help you manage your weight.