Diet & Fitness

Keeping It Off

UPDATED 01/09/2006 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/09/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

Losing 122 lbs. was hard work, no question. But “when you're losing,” says January 2005 “Half Their Size” veteran Dacia Gilkey, “you have a goal. Once you get there, it's actually harder to maintain.” She's right, and she can blame Mother Nature. “[We're] built to favor weight gain,” says Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Once you're smaller, you need fewer calories, so it's easier to overeat. Plus, during weight loss, “your metabolic rate slows down,” so you burn fewer too, says Dr. Rena Wing, a cofounder of the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks long-term losers.

To fight her body's impulse to hold on to every calorie, Gilkey, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation communications analyst, keeps close tabs on the scale. “If I gain 2, 3 or 4 lbs., I'm at my max,” says Gilkey, 28, who once weighed 256 lbs. That's her cue to step up her five hour-long weekly workouts. “Exercise plays an important role,” in maintaining weight loss, says Dr. Aronne. Specifically, he recommends high-intensity activities such as interval training or using a treadmill on an incline, which prevents the metabolic rate from going down.

Gilkey complements her workouts with homemade meals of grilled chicken, vegetables, brown rice and salad. Recently promoted at work, she credits her new look with giving her confidence during the interview process. Could the promotion owe anything to the weight loss? Possibly. According to an Ohio State University study published in July 2005, people who significantly lowered their body-mass indexes also upped their wealth by between $4,480 and $12,720. “When you walk in a room, the first perception is physical,” notes Gilkey. “People say they don't discriminate by the way you look. but they do. They do.”

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