Objective. Although behavioural interventions are successful in achieving short-term weight loss, most individuals regain most or all of their weight within a few years. Our aim was to investigate factors that can help in long-term weight maintenance.
Design. Qualitative interviews were conducted in order to elicit experiences, successes, and difficulties associated with weight control over the lifespan.
Methods. Participants were 20 adult volunteers (aged 30–67) including lifelong weight maintainers, active weight maintainers who have maintained weight loss, and weight gainers. Thematic analysis was used to highlight differences between weight groups.
Results. Successful weight maintainers adopt a staged approach to weight management, including monitoring weight fluctuations and having a clear alarm signal for weight gain that triggers immediate action. They have several behavioural strategies for weight control, comprising relatively small adjustments to diet and/or exercise behaviour and also have clear strategies for coping with lifestyle interruptions. In contrast, unsuccessful weight maintainers display negative cognitive factors, including erratic or inconsistent weight vigilance, failure to respond to warning signs of weight gain, and failure to restrict weight unless in a positive mindset. Further, their coping strategies for weight gain or failed actions are poor.
Conclusions. The results suggest that successful weight maintainers, irrespective of current weight band, adopt a staged behavioural approach to weight management that allows them to maintain a fairly stable weight. Encouraging the use of such strategies in those who typically regain weight after dieting may aid them in maintaining weight loss.