4 Reasons People Regain Weight

You might have heard a statistic that 95% of people who lose weight regain it. It’s a widespread (and discouraging) stat, and it’s not true. It began with a study of only 100 people, back in 1959. Because it was such a catchy news title, the myth that 95% of people regain weight after losing it was born.

No, 95% Of People Who Lose Weight Do Not Regain Weight

More recent research has proven that successful and sustained weight loss is possible, and I certainly see that here in my weight loss practice. In fact, we often have to go back and adjust our testimonials at the request of participants, because they’ve lost even more weight. We have regular photo shoots with past clients, and it’s great to see them keeping the weight off and feeling good about how they look. It’s definitely possible to maintain your weight loss!

So What Does The Recent Research Say About Weight Regain?

In 1999, two doctors studying the results of the National Weight Control Registry found many examples of successful weight loss. They reported that on average, most people maintained a loss of 67 pounds for five years, and significant numbers (12 to 14%) kept off 100 pounds over the long term. In other words, weight regain did NOT happen in “95% of people who had lost significant weight”, as we’re so often told.

We’re Not Talking Fad Diets Here

It’s certainly true that rebound weight gain is common in fad diets where participants starve themselves, or restrict themselves to one food source, or use shakes or bars to replace real food. However, when the weight loss strategy includes lifestyle changes and behavior modification, such learning to eat reasonable quantities of healthy and nutritious real food and stay moderately active, keeping weight off is possible.

Why people regain weight

Why Do Some People Regain Weight?

Beyond those who mess up their metabolism with fad diets, there are four primary reasons why people regain weight.

  1. Diet Mindset
  2. Stress
  3. Lack of Sleep
  4. Medical Condition

Diet Mindset

A diet mindset is an approach to weight loss that believes that what is needed is a “diet”, for a limited time. “Just a bit of willpower for a few weeks, and then I’ll get back to normal.” Permanent weight loss isn’t about doing what you’ve always done – that’s what created overweight in the first place, so planning to get back to that isn’t going to allow you to maintain any gains you make by “restricting” yourself short term.

True lifestyle change involves finding new foods, drinks and activities that you enjoy which are healthier choices for you, on a permanent basis. In some cases there will be things you’ve enjoyed that you give up, or replace, but you are choosing this because of the greater gains you’ll receive in how you feel.


The hormonal changes that come with a stressful lifestyle can create weight gain. The stress hormone cortisol often triggers cravings for starchy carbs and fatty foods. Emotional eating is also more common when you are stressed. Long term stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which is one of the medical conditions which can cause you to regain weight (or have difficulty taking it off).

Often, part of your initial weight loss will involve getting stress (and stress eating) under control, and learning to be more mindful. We’ve also discussed how meditation has been proven to aid weight loss. Of course, being under stress also often impacts the quality of your sleep, which is our next reason why people regain weight.


Sleep and stress interact in very negative ways, when it comes to weight loss. If you can’t sleep, your stress goes up. If you’re stressed, it gets harder to get to sleep, stay asleep, and get good quality sleep. Poor sleep habits have been shown to lead to both increased BMI (Body Mass Index) and comfort eating, often because of the stress associated with inadequate sleep.

Medical Condition

You may have a medical condition that causes you to regain lost weight, or be put on medication that adds pounds. In fact, a large number of prescription medications have weight gain as a side effect. Some common medical issues that effect weight include hypothyroidism (which is frequently undiagnosed and sometimes not effectively treated), GERD (Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease) and other digestive disorders, or even needing to take an antibiotic which destroys beneficial gut flora. The hormonal changes of menopause or andropause can trigger weight regain. As we already mentioned, adrenal fatigue from chronic stress can be a culprit. Physical injury, such as a fracture, can also lead to weight regain when it forces an inactive lifestyle.

Awareness Helps You Take Action

When you are aware of these four reasons people regain weight, you can often take action and/or get help before weight regain occurs. Every one of these issues is treatable, whether with food choices, meditation, hormone therapy, probiotics or alternative exercises. Don’t let your hard-earned weight loss accomplishments go to waste – if you are in danger of weight regain, or find your weight slipping back up, get the help you need to maintain your weight loss.


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5 Responses to 4 Reasons People Regain Weight

  1. dlawes June 7, 2015 at 10:23 am #

    I find it difficult to deal with weight loss when going through hard times. Eating is a way to get through the pain. Sometimes it even feels like I am just giving up. Later some time I start to feel better and regret what I did. There are a lot of stressful things to deal with in this day and age.
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    • DrBruce June 7, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

      It’s true that it’s more difficult to focus on getting healthier when you’re under a great deal of stress. That’s why lifestyle choices that reduce stress can be helpful with weight loss. Taking a yoga class, learning to meditate, or even taking magnesium are examples that I’ve written about here. Of course, some times you just need a support system, which is one of the reasons that medical weight loss works and my clients finally lose the weight and keep it off.

  2. MrsS06 July 7, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    I find that it is more difficult for me to maintain my weight loss when I am around certain family members. I am not sure if this is because they stress me or if there are times when they intentionally try to sabotage my success. In the past I have handled the stress much more easily, this last year everything has changed though. After a cancer diagnosis which resulted in the complete infertility I have lost all control of my stress. This has made my previously maintained weight loss begin to fluctuate.

    I have also found that my weight loss and sleep go hand in hand. Not only do I lose and keep more off when I am sleeping on a regular schedule but I tend to sleep better when I am losing.

    I am in desperate need of a good support system that will not given to my wants. I am not sure where to even begin looking for that though.

  3. vegg July 12, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    I think my primary problems with dieting are sleep and mindset. I’m very much a night owl, AND I tend to eat later in the day. I know those are two big no-nos. In terms of mindset, I very much approach dieting from an “on” or “off” perspective rather than generally improving my eating and exercising habits. I also tend to agree that awareness is a big part of it. Putting a name to these things has really helped me see where my focus should be.

  4. misskrystal1982 September 30, 2015 at 7:57 am #

    I have a hard time keeping the weight off, mainly due to certain family members who sabotage my efforts. They know the things I have a weakness for and those are the things they will buy me as a “reward”.
    They constantly make jokes about not wanting me to lose weight, but I do not think they are jokes. It seems as though this is all intentional. I have a very hard time wasting food, so when they stop at a gas station and get a fountain drink for me, I feel I must drink it.

    I also have a very bad habit of eating when I am upset. This is a bit more manageable, but still difficult.

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