What is your current activity level?
🧍‍♂️Sedentary
🚶 Moderately active
🏃 Very active
This will help us personalize your experience
Blog
>

Why Am I Gaining Weight Back After Losing It? Is It Normal?

Published on
Updated on
Why Am I Gaining Weight Back After Losing It? Is It Normal?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Many people regain weight due to mechanisms that protect the body from starvation. 
  • Since the body doesn’t know the difference between a weight loss diet and a famine, it responds by increasing appetite and slowing metabolism. 
  • Instead of dieting, focus on setting sustainable goals to eat balanced meals, exercise regularly, and learn mindful eating.

Research shows that most people who lose weight regain 50% of that weight within two years and over 80% within five years.

Why is it so common to gain weight back after losing it?

Weight loss can trigger a series of physiological mechanisms that cause you to regain weight after a period of weight loss.

Continue reading to learn more about the science behind weight regain and how to prevent weight cycling. 

{{splash}}

Why Do People Regain Weight After Losing It?

If you've ever been in the frustrating pattern of weight loss and regain (known as weight cycling), you’ve likely wondered why many people regain weight after losing it.

In short, your body is trying to protect you from starvation

From an evolutionary standpoint, famine was a significant threat to human survival.

As a result, the body developed numerous mechanisms to give us a better chance of living through periods of starvation.

Fast forward to today.

Your body cannot tell the difference between starvation and intentional food restriction for weight loss.

When you lose weight by reducing calories and increasing exercise, your body responds by lowering your metabolic rate and increasing your hunger.

Over time, this can result in weight regain. 

Common Reasons for Regaining Lost Weight

Understanding why weight regain occurs after losing weight can help you avoid falling into a pattern of yo-yo dieting or weight cycling. 

Genetics

First, it’s important to acknowledge the role of genetics on body weight.

Scientists have identified many genes that may contribute to the development of obesity, making those who inherit these more likely to experience weight concerns throughout their lives. 

Genetics are involved in determining a person’s set point, or the weight their body prefers.

The set point theory suggests that each person has a predetermined weight their body works hard to maintain—despite diet and lifestyle changes to lose weight.

When a person loses weight below their set point, it can result in a lower metabolic rate, making it hard to maintain the weight loss.

Research shows that losing 10% of your body weight can reduce the energy your body burns by up to 25%. 

{{splash}}

Hormones

Many hormones involved in metabolism and weight regulation change during and after weight loss, contributing to future weight regain.

For example, research shows that leptin decreases and ghrelin increases after a person with obesity loses weight. 

Leptin is a hormone involved with fullness cues, while ghrelin is responsible for hunger signals.

When leptin drops and ghrelin spikes, a person will feel an increased appetite and a weaker fullness signal, which encourages overeating and weight gain.

Weight loss can also impact thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, decreasing the energy your body burns and contributing to weight gain.

Unsustainable Diet

In response to experiencing difficulty losing weight, many people turn to restrictive diets that eliminate entire food groups or are very low in calories.

The all-or-nothing approach that often accompanies these diets can make them challenging to maintain in the long term. 

When an individual stops their diet, the weight starts coming back.

This can lead to yo-yo dieting and weight cycling, which are associated with a higher weight than when the person started their first diet. 

The physiological response to weight loss also contributes to a calorie-restricted diet being unsustainable in the long term.

Research shows that weight loss can lead to overeating and cravings for energy-dense foods due to increased appetite. 

{{splash}}

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can influence a person’s metabolism and appetite, contributing to the pattern of weight regain after a period of weight loss.

Research suggests these conditions can also impact a person’s set point. 

Examples include:

Additionally, some medications can cause weight gain by impacting your metabolic rate and hunger levels, such as:

  • Corticosteroids. 
  • Certain depression medications. 
  • Some high blood pressure medicines. 
  • Certain diabetes drugs. 

Strategies for Preventing Weight Gain After Losing It 

If you’re on a weight management journey, consider the following tips to make long-lasting changes.

{{local}} 

Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle 

Rather than following a restrictive diet, focus on building balanced and nutritious eating habits you can sustain.

Many behaviors can improve your health, and some are specifically associated with long-term weight management success.

These include:

Set realistic expectations for yourself and acknowledge non-scale victories, such as better sleep, higher energy levels, and improved clinical markers like cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Mindful Eating

Practice mindful and intuitive eating strategies to help regulate your food intake and listen to your body.

Research shows that mindful eating is associated with weight loss, though more studies are needed. 

Mindful eating tools help you maintain balanced nutrition habits in the long term because they allow you to listen to your body instead of following external rules about calories and portions. 

Examples of this might include: 

  • Honoring your fullness cues. 
  • Eating when you feel hungry. 
  • Slowing down the pace of eating. 
  • Limiting distractions during meals, such as screens. 
  • Noticing the taste, texture, and flavor of your food.

{{splash}}

Regular Exercise 

An active lifestyle is an important part of reaching your health goals.

Resistance training, such as weight lifting or bodyweight exercises (pushups, squats, etc.), can be especially beneficial during a weight management journey. 

Research shows muscle mass can decrease during a weight loss attempt, which contributes to the metabolism slowing and eventual weight regain.

Resistance exercises have been shown to help preserve muscle mass in weight management. 

Identify Triggers and Develop Coping Mechanisms

If emotional eating is a concern, work with a registered dietitian or therapist to determine which situations tend to cause these episodes for you.

Learning to regulate negative emotions without using food can help you stick with your health goals. 

You may also find that emotional eating decreases when you stop dieting.

Research shows that people who restrict their diets are more likely to overeat foods that are “off limits” when feeling negative emotions. 

Create a Support System  

Studies have shown that attending regular meetings with your doctor or dietitian can support you in maintaining healthy habits for weight management in the long term.

Continuing check-ins for over a year is especially helpful. 

Additionally, talk to your family and friends about how they might be willing to support you in your goals.

For example, maybe your partner can help you with meal planning and cooking, or a friend could go walking with you on a regular basis. 

{{splash}}

Takeaway

Gaining weight back after losing it may happen for many reasons, including genetics, hormonal changes, restrictive dieting, and certain medical conditions.

The body has mechanisms in place to protect against starvation when weight loss occurs.

For example, the metabolic rate slows and appetite increases to promote weight regain. 

Working with a registered dietitian to create a sustainable, balanced eating plan and learning to eat mindfully can help you reach your health goals without yo-yo dieting. 

How a Dietitian Can Help

If you're caught in a cycle of weight loss and regain, it can be valuable to seek professional support.

A weight-neutral registered dietitian can work with you to create realistic and sustainable goals to improve your health and stop dieting for good. 

{{splash}}

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you deal with gaining weight back after losing it?

First, give yourself grace.

Know that physiological changes occur when you lose weight that encourage weight regain.

These include a slower metabolic rate, stronger appetite, and increased fat storage capabilities. 

Rather than seeking a restrictive diet or intense exercise plan, work with a dietitian to develop a balanced, sustainable plan that you feel confident you can follow long-term.

Why did I gain weight after losing it?

It’s very common for people to regain weight following a period of weight loss, with most regaining 80% of the weight they lost after five years.

Because your body does not know the difference between starvation and intentional dieting, it has mechanisms in place to protect you against weight loss. 

Primarily, weight loss can trigger a higher appetite and a slower metabolic rate, which increases your cravings and drive to eat while decreasing the energy your body burns.

For many people, this results in weight gain.

How long after losing weight do people gain it back?

While short-term weight loss is possible, most people gain it back in the long term.

Research shows that most people who lose weight regain 50% of that weight within two years.

Additionally, over 80% of the weight is regained within five years.

References

View all references
Nourish has strict sourcing policies and prioritizes primary sources, including medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about our medical review process and editorial guidelines.

See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish

  • Covered by insurance
  • Virtual sessions
  • Personalized care
Schedule an appointment

Frequently asked questions

No items found.

Find a virtual dietitian in {State}

Find a dietitian near you

Covered by insurance.
Question 1

Are you more thirsty than usual?

Question 1

Are you urinating more than usual?

Question 1

Is your blood sugar level consistently high?

Question 1

Do you experience extreme hunger or fatigue?

Question 1

Do you have blurry vision or numbness and tingling in your hands and feet?

Question 1

Do you experience frequent infections or slow-healing wounds?

Question 1

Do you have a family history of diabetes?

Your Result

Your results are in!

While you don’t seem to be at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes based on this quiz, please contact your healthcare provider with any concerns. If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Your Result

Your results are in!

You should seek guidance from your healthcare provider about the possibility of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Charleston
SC
South Carolina
32.7884363, -79.9399309
Paterson
NJ
New Jersey
40.916611, -74.172188
Palmdale
CA
California
34.576469, -118.116096
Lancaster
CA
California
34.697472, -118.144524
Murfreesboro
TN
Tennessee
35.845619, -86.390266
Santa Rosa
CA
California
38.547134, -122.816383
Eugene
OR
Oregon
44.052151, -123.091187
Shreveport
LA
Louisiana
32.523659, -93.763504
Clarksville
TN
Tennessee
36.527279, -87.360336
Cary
NC
North Carolina
35.7882893, -78.7812081
Salem
OR
Oregon
44.944099, -123.040283
Newport News
VA
Virginia
37.087082, -76.473015
Chattanooga
TN
Tennessee
35.0457219, -85.3094883
Akron
OH
Ohio
41.0842496, -81.6777863
Providence
RI
Rhode Island
41.823990, -71.412834
Tallahassee
FL
Florida
30.438255, -84.280731
Peoria
AZ
Arizona
33.7528919, -112.4902079
Sioux Falls
SD
South Dakota
43.536388, -96.731667
Yonkers
NY
New York
40.930790, -73.898293
Fayetteville
NC
North Carolina
35.052666, -78.878357
Rochester
NY
New York
43.156578, -77.608849
McKinney
TX
Texas
33.214561, -96.614456
Moreno Valley
CA
California
33.920891, -117.261162
Fremont
CA
California
37.548271, -121.988571
Frisco
TX
Texas
33.150673, -96.823608
Spokane
WA
Washington
47.658779, -117.426048
Boise
ID
Idaho
43.6008183, -116.2421086
Port St. Lucie
FL
Florida
27.273270, -80.342148
Irving
TX
Texas
32.814018, -96.948891
Winston-Salem
NC
North Carolina
36.096260, -80.243736
St. Petersburg
FL
Florida
27.773056, -82.639999
Laredo
TX
Texas
27.507130, -99.507500
Jersey City
NJ
New Jersey
,
Buffalo
NY
New York
42.8867166, -78.8783922
St. Louis
MO
Missouri
38.627003, -90.199402
Chandler
AZ
Arizona
33.3062031, -111.841185
Durham
NC
North Carolina
35.994034, -78.898621
Lincoln
NE
Nebraska
40.806862, -96.681679
Pittsburgh
PA
Pennsylvania
40.440624, -79.995888
Greensboro
NC
North Carolina
36.072701, -79.793900
St. Paul
MN
Minnesota
44.954445, -93.091301
Newark
NJ
New Jersey
40.735657, -74.172363
Lexington
KY
Kentucky
38.040585, -84.503716
Stockton
CA
California
37.957703, -121.290779
Honolulu
HI
Hawaii
21.306944, -157.858337
Cleveland
OH
Ohio
41.499321, -81.694359
Arlington
TX
Texas
32.7355816, -97.1071186
Oakland
CA
California
37.804363, -122.271111
Long Beach
CA
California
33.770050, -118.193741
Raleigh
NC
North Carolina
35.779591, -78.638176
Omaha
NE
Nebraska
41.256538, -95.934502
Colorado Springs
CO
Colorado
38.833881, -104.821365
Fresno
CA
California
36.737797, -119.787125
Albuquerque
NM
New Mexico
35.084385, -106.650421
Memphis
TN
Tennessee
35.117500, -89.971107
Washington DC
WA DC
Washington, DC
38.889805, -77.009056
Las Vegas
NV
Nevada
36.169941, -115.139832
Seattle
WA
Washington
47.606209, -122.332069
Charlotte
NC
North Carolina
35.2272086, -80.8430827
Sacramento
CA
California
38.590576, -121.489906
Richmond
VA
Virginia
37.540726, -77.436050
Surprise
AZ
Arizona
33.629002, -112.330170
Mesa
AZ
Arizona
33.415184, -111.831474
Louisville
KY
Kentucky
38.252666, -85.758453
Des Moines
IA
Iowa
41.586834, -93.624962
Lakewood
CO
Colorado
39.704708, -105.081375
Kansas City
KS
Kansas
39.112701, -94.626801
Reno
NV
Nevada
39.529633, -119.813805
Tacoma
WA
Washington
47.258728, -122.465973
Aurora
CO
Colorado
39.7405111, -104.830994
Oxnard
CA
California
34.197659, -119.175949
Amarillo
TX
Texas
35.221996, -101.831299
Henderson
NV
Nevada
36.039524, -114.981720
Vancouver
WA
Washington
45.633331, -122.599998
Gilbert
AZ
Arizona
33.352825, -111.789024
San Bernardino
CA
California
34.115784, -117.302399
Columbus
GA
Georgia
27.800583, -97.396378
Hayward
CA
California
37.668819, -122.080795
Milwaukee
WI
Wisconsin
43.038902, -87.906471
Lubbock
TX
Texas
33.576698, -101.855072
Norfolk
VA
Virginia
36.850769, -76.285873
Tulsa
OK
Oklahoma
36.153980, -95.992775
Garland
TX
Texas
32.914341, -96.636559
Fort Lauderdale
FL
Florida
26.124161, -80.143593
Tucson
AZ
Arizona
32.248814, -110.987419
Salt Lake City
UT
Utah
40.760780, -111.891045
Corona
CA
California
33.875670, -117.568840
Madison
WI
Wisconsin
43.073051, -89.401230
Huntsville
AL
Alabama
34.7014286, -86.6597495
Kansas City
MO
Missouri
39.099728, -94.578568
Irvine
CA
California
33.684566, -117.826508
Chula Vista
CA
California
32.640072, -117.084038
Denton
TX
Texas
33.215530, -97.132446
Aurora
IL
Illinois
41.7571701, -88.3147539
Baton Rouge
LA
Louisiana
30.4494155, -91.1869659
Columbus
OH
Ohio
39.961178, -82.998795
Baltimore
MD
Maryland
39.2908816, -76.610759
Detroit
MI
Michigan
42.331429, -83.045753
Chesapeake
VA
Virginia
36.7183708, -76.2466798
Atlanta
GA
Georgia
33.7489924, -84.3902644
Birmingham
AL
Alabama
33.5206824, -86.8024326
Scottsdale
AZ
Arizona
33.501324, -111.925278
Cincinnati
OH
Ohio
39.103700, -84.513610
North Las Vegas
NV
Nevada
36.201946, -115.120216
Riverside
CA
California
33.980602, -117.375496
Plano
TX
Texas
33.019844, -96.698883
Minneapolis
MN
Minnesota
44.977753, -93.265015
Salinas
CA
California
,
Anaheim
CA
California
33.836594, -117.914299
Springfield
MO
Missouri
37.208958, -93.292297
Fort Wayne
IN
Indiana
41.077469, -85.137489
Phoenix
AZ
Arizona
33.448376, -112.074036
Bakersfield
CA
California
35.3738712, -119.0194639
Garden Grove
CA
California
33.774269, -117.937996
Anchorage
AK
Alaska
61.2163129, -149.894852
Indianapolis
IN
Indiana
39.768402, -86.158066
Nashville
TN
Tennessee
36.162663, -86.781601
Tempe
AZ
Arizona
33.425522, -111.941254
Mobile
AL
Alabama
30.695366, -88.039894
New Orleans
LA
Louisiana
29.951065, -90.071533
Knoxville
TN
Tennessee
35.960636, -83.920738
Grand Rapids
MI
Michigan
42.963360, -85.668083
Fontana
CA
California
34.102890, -117.435760
Elk Grove
CA
California
38.418129, -121.393257
Cape Coral
FL
Florida
26.5625742, -81.9438802
Grand Prairie
TX
Texas
32.745499, -97.003532
Fort Collins
CO
Colorado
40.588970, -105.082458
Killeen
TX
Texas
31.117119, -97.727798
Modesto
CA
California
37.639095, -120.996880
Oklahoma City
OK
Oklahoma
35.468491, -97.521263
Santa Ana
CA
California
33.745571, -117.867836
Ontario
CA
California
34.063343, -117.650887
Brownsville
TX
Texas
25.9015688, -97.4984005
Montgomery
AL
Alabama
32.379223, -86.307739
Hialeah
FL
Florida
25.857595, -80.278107
Springfield
MA
Massachusetts
42.102051, -72.585762
Toledo
OH
Ohio
41.652805, -83.537865
Pembroke Pines
FL
Florida
26.007765, -80.296257
Overland Park
KS
Kansas
38.974819, -94.683601
Little Rock
AR
Arkansas
34.746483, -92.289597
Glendale
CA
California
34.142509, -118.255074
Roseville
CA
California
38.752125, -121.288010
Wichita
KS
Kansas
37.687176, -97.330055
Huntington Beach
CA
California
33.659485, -117.998802
Augusta
GA
Georgia
33.4709714, -81.9748429
Worcester
MA
Massachusetts
42.271389, -71.798889
Virginia Beach
VA
Virginia
36.852924, -75.977982
Oceanside
CA
California
33.1958696, -117.3794834
Santa Clarita
CA
California
34.456043, -118.571335
Philadelphia
PA
Pennsylvania
39.952583, -75.165222
Corpus Christi
TX
Texas
27.800583, -97.396378
Portland
OR
Oregon
45.512230, -122.658722
Denver
CO
Colorado
39.739235, -104.990250
Boston
MA
Massachusetts
42.3554334, -71.060511
Atlanta
GA
Georgia
33.7489924, -84.3902644
Chicago
IL
Illinois
41.8755616, -87.6244212
Orlando
FL
Florida
28.538336, -81.379234
Jacksonville
FL
Florida
30.332184, -81.655647
Tampa
FL
Florida
27.950575, -82.457176
Long Island
NY
New York
40.757801, -73.940033
Queens
NY
New York
40.728226, -73.794853
Bronx
NY
New York
40.8466508, -73.8785937
Staten Island
NY
New York
40.643501, -74.076202
Brooklyn
NY
New York
40.6526006, -73.9497211
New York
NY
New York
40.712776, -74.005974
San Jose
CA
California
37.342205, -121.851990
San Francisco
CA
California
37.774929, -122.419418
San Diego
CA
California
32.834686, -117.130775
Los Angeles
CA
California
34.052235, -118.243683
El Paso
TX
Texas
31.761877, -106.485023
San Antonio
TX
Texas
29.387428, -98.496574
Dallas
TX
Texas
32.776665, -96.796989
Fort Worth
TX
Texas
32.755489, -97.330765
Houston
TX
Texas
29.760427, -95.369804
Austin
TX
Texas
30.2711286, -97.7436995

Book an appointment with a {category} dietitian

Covered by insurance.

Book an appointment with an online dietitian

Covered by insurance.

Find a

dietitian covered by insurance

No items found.
Weight loss medication
Mental Health
Intuitive Eating