Anyone who’s ever lost weight knows that the hardest part isn’t, in fact, dropping pounds. It’s keeping said weight off. After all, once you don’t see visual proof of your efforts every day, it’s harder to find the motivation within yourself to continue. Well, no more! We asked Andreas Michaelides, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in charge of group support at the weight-loss app company Noom, for the best way to maintain weight loss. His answer? All you have to do is start mentoring someone else on their weight loss journey, and it’ll help you keep the pounds off, too.
There are a few reasons why being a weight-loss mentor is such an effective strategy. The first is that it puts you in teacher mode. “It gives you a sense of mastery over weight loss,” says Michaelides. “You’ve not only attained this difficult goal, but you’ve internalized it enough to share what you’ve learned with someone else. And having to explain things to others not only forces you to know exactly what you’re doing and talking about, it also ensures that you’re doing your homework and paying attention to details—all of which are necessary factors if you want to keep the weight off.”
Another reason that the mentor effect works wonders is that it’s basically a constant reminder to get back to the mental place you were in when you actually lost the weight in the first place—and remembering your struggle makes it easier to resist goodies and hit the gym so you won’t have to go back to that hard place. Along those same lines, being a mentor also helps you stay slim because it makes you feel accountable to your students since you want to be a good role model for them. “And that’s crucial because feeling accountable for your weight helps many people stay on track,” says Michaelides.
Finally, being a mentor just makes you feel good. Like, really good. “It’s really reinforcing to see that you’re the reason someone else achieved their goals,” says Michaelides. “It makes you more likely to stick to your own long-term goals, too.”
There are a couple precautions, though. First, it’s a huge time commitment and responsibility to mentor someone, so you have to be ready to give and give and give (but remember, you’ll receive in return). And there’s also a mental risk. “Some people just aren’t ready to slim down, even though they think they are, and they’ll fail,” says Michaelides. “Their failures could make you feel inadequate if you take them personally.”
Not sure who to take under your wing? If you lost weight with a specific group, see if you can sign up to be a mentor. Noom, for instance, provides the opportunity for its successful members to mentor new members. Otherwise, opt for family or friends, but be sure they’re really committed—or else it may end up hurting your relationship.
*This story was originally published on WomensHealth.com.