It seems counterintuitive, but according to a new study by Stanford University researchers, the key to long-lasting weight loss is may be learn the keys to maintenance before trying to lose weight.

In the study titled “Promoting Healthy Weight with ‘Stability Skills First,” Michaela Kiernan and her colleagues found that people are more able to attain lasting weight loss if they are first taught to maintain it.

Fit Sugar gives more details about the study:

In a new study by Stanford scientists, more than 260 overweight to obese women were split into two groups: One immediately began a 20-week weight-loss plan that involved eating more fruits and veggies, being more active, keeping daily food journals, and attending weekly support meetings. Once this part of the program was completed, they spent eight more weeks focusing on weight maintenance tactics.

The other group was asked to refrain from losing any weight the first eight weeks while they learned those maintenance lessons. Only after those two months did these women began the identical 20-week weight-loss program.

In the end, both groups lost about the same amount of weight—an average 17 pounds, roughly 9 percent of their starting weights. But there was a big difference a year later: Those who lost weight first regained seven pounds, more than twice as much as the women who started by mastering the maintenance tricks.

These findings may be just what people need to finally lose the weight and keep it off. While most concentrate on losing the weight, no matter what, only to find the pounds creep back on, these participants were able to maintain their weight loss because they learned the tools necessary to live a healthy life, not just get thinner.

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