Tackling the fear of weight regain

written by Philip Stefanov  |  JULY 11, 2023

Every person who’s been overweight in the past carries the fear of regaining weight, even in a controlled way, such as during a lean bulk for muscle gain.

The question is, can you do anything about it? Let’s discuss.

The Problem With Fearing Weight Regain

Weight regain is a common concern in the weeks and months following weight loss. Some people carry that fear even years after losing weight and successfully keeping it off.

While that fear can keep you in check and stop you from overeating (or going on a dirty bulk), it can also be counterproductive and slow your long-term progress. Here are some issues that can arise from such a fear:

  • Obsessing over your scale weight and going into panic mode every time you gain a few pounds

  • Keeping you on a perpetual diet, where you always seem to be ‘cutting’ despite knowing that it’s time to increase your calorie intake and add some muscle to your frame

  • Affecting your social life, making you more likely to avoid social gatherings because you cannot control your food choices there

  • Stopping you from building muscle or getting stronger in the long run because you’re afraid to put yourself in a controlled surplus to gain weight

  • Sometimes leads to overcompensating with exercise to burn off extra calories and not gain weight

  • Constantly worrying about calories, scale weight, and muscle definition can bring about stress and anxiety, leading to mental health issues

Gaining Weight Doesn’t Have to Mean Gaining Fat

When it comes to weight gain, many people believe it means an increase in body fat, which doesn’t have to be the case.

Just as overeating (being in a surplus) can result in fat gain, it is also necessary for hypertrophy (muscle growth). Does that mean you can only build muscle if you follow the right tactics? Sadly, no. However, optimizing your approach can help you build mostly muscle while keeping fat gains to a minimum.

Here are some tactics that can help:

  • Eat enough protein - at least 0.7 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight
  • Do resistance training three to five times per week
  • Maintain a small surplus to gain weight slowly over the months (no more than one percent monthly)
  • Sleep at least seven hours per night

You will inevitably gain some fat, but that’s where fat loss (cutting) phases come in. Going through controlled weight gain and weight loss phases would ideally allow you to gradually gain muscle over the years while controlling your body fat percentage.

Actionable Tips to Tackle the Fear of Weight Regain

Here are some effective tactics to tackle the fear of weight gain and unlock your full growth potential:

1. Educate Yourself

Learn about the difference between muscle and fat gain to understand how the two occur and what factors determine your outcome. Understand that not all weight gain is unhealthy or unattractive.

Gaining muscle can drastically alter your physique and even make you appear more athletic at a higher body fat percentage.

2. Change How You Track Progress

Keeping track of your body weight can be helpful but don’t obsess over the digits on the scale because they can be misleading. These numbers don’t mean anything without context.

Instead, focus on tracking your body composition to determine if the weight you’re gaining is mostly good (i.e., muscle). Practical tactics include:

  • Take progress photos of your front, side, and back every three to four weeks and compare

  • Measure the circumference of your chest, upper arms, waist, hips, thighs, etc., to better understand your weight gain and if you’re building muscle; for example, seeing arm and thigh circumference increase while keeping your waist measurement relatively the same would likely indicate muscle growth

  • Track how your clothes fit and if you like your appearance, despite gaining 5, 10, or even 20 lbs

  • Monitor your gym performance to tell if the weight gain positively impacts your strength and explosiveness

3. Be Patient

Accept that your fitness journey will have ups and downs, and learn to be okay with that. For example, as you gain weight to build muscle, you might reach a point where you’re starting to feel a bit uncomfortable and maybe even fearful that you’ll fail to lose the fat later.

These feelings are entirely normal, especially if you’ve struggled with weight loss in the past.

However, despite that, you should trust yourself and be patient. After all, you’ve successfully lost weight in the past, so what makes you think you can’t do it now? Plus, you must make some sacrifices to optimize your long-term development.

4. Avoid Obsessive Behavior

Some people are more prone to obsessive behaviors than others, but nobody is 100 percent safe. Be mindful of that possibility and strive to keep fitness a positive and healthy part of your life.

If you find yourself obsessing over digits – whether scale weight, circumference measures, your calorie intake, or something else – step back and evaluate. Ask yourself, “Is this helping me in any way, and must I be 100 percent accurate all the time to reach my goals and feel good about myself?”

Think big picture instead of obsessing over looking at your best right now.

Thanks for sticking around. I'll catch you next week!



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