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Losing weight is hard, keeping the weight off seemingly impossible. “People lose weight and then they gain it back. Long-term weight loss is really a challenge,” says Atlanta endocrinologist Scott Isaacs, author of Hormonal Balance: How to Lose Weight by Understanding Your Hormones and Metabolism.

The answer may lie in falling levels of leptin, a hormose that controls weight by telling the body how much fat is present and also increasing levels of gherkin, which stimulates hunger. With weight loss, leptin levels drop, appetite increases, metabolism slows.

In a small study recently published the The New England Journal of Medicine, Australian researchers put an otherwise healthy group of overweight and obese people on a 500-calorie-a-day diet for 10 weeks. A year later, their hunger-controlling hormone levels still had not recovered to pre-study levels and many had gained back nearly half the kilos they lost.

So what’s the solution? “For long-term weight maintenance, exercise makes a huge difference,” says Isaacs. “Exercise will raise metabolism while you’re exercising and also 24 hours after you exercise. Do a blend of cardio and resistance training with light weights or bands to build muscle. If you build muscle, that allows higher metabolism.”

What are your best weight loss tips?