Happy on the dial of bathroom scales
Keep it Easy Enough to Be Consistent

Be honest with yourself, how many times have you searched for 'lose weight fast' or similar - only to start and fail with the latest fad. This new research shows why it's best to take a more easy-going, longer term approach 

Lose a Steady Amount of Weight Each Week for Long Term Success

Key Takeaways

  • Losing weight at a steady and consistent rate during your first 6-12 weeks is more likely to be successful in the long term than having large fluctuations week to week
  • Developing habits early on in your weight loss journey, that you can keep going, is key to long term success

When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off it's the Steady Eddies who win the race, according to a new study published in the journal Obesity.

Researchers from Drexel University studied 183 people enrolled in a behavioural weight loss program, and measured outcomes 1 and 2 years later.

People who lost a consistent amount of weight each week had better outcomes compared to those whose weights fluctuated the most during the first few weeks of the program. Lead author Emily Feig, PhD, said:

"It seems that developing stable, repeatable behaviours related to food intake and weight loss early on in a weight control program is really important for maintaining changes over the long term."

The Study

The psychologists were interested in studying what makes some people less successful in weight loss programs.

To find out, they enrolled individuals who were overweight or obese into a year-long program that used meal replacements along with behavioural goals such as self-monitoring, calorie monitoring and increasing physical activity.

The participants attended weekly treatment groups during which they were weighed, and returned for a final weigh-in two years from the start of the program. Participants also reported on food-related behaviours and attitudes like cravings, emotional eating, binge eating and confidence in regulating intake.

The Findings

The researchers found that higher weight variability over the initial six and 12 weeks of weight loss treatment predicted poorer subsequent, long-term weight control at 12 and 24 months.

For example, someone who lost four pounds one week, regained two and then lost one the next tended to fare worse than someone who lost one pound consistently each week for three weeks.

Interestingly, individuals who reported lower emotional eating, binge eating and preoccupation with food at the start of the study showed higher weight variability and less weight loss overall.

This suggests that initial weight change, rather than relationships with or behaviours toward food, is much more important in predicting who will succeed in weight loss and maintenance.

Though he is hesitant to equate correlation and causation in this case, principal investigator Michael Lowe, PhD, a psychology professor at Drexel, says the study does illuminate a potential method for sticking to weight loss goals.

"Settle on a weight loss plan that you can maintain week in and week out, even if that means consistently losing ¾ of a pound each week," he said.

What You Can do

  • Choose a rate of loss that you can stick with consistently.
  • This means consciously choosing to lose weight at a rate that will give you enough calories each day to stop you feeling deprived or hungry. You’ll be much more likely to stick to it and lose weight consistently.
  • Aiming for a higher rate of loss means you have to eat a lot less than normal to stay on target, which is what most people find very hard to do.

So don’t try to go too fast . . .

You’ll be more vulnerable to ‘falling off the wagon’ resulting in fluctuating weight loss/weight gain and ultimately be less likely to be successful in the long term.

This study is really good news for people whose emotions play a big role in their eating habits and ability to lose weight. Since it seems that choosing a rate of weight loss you can stick with is potentially a bigger success factor than your relationship with food.

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References

Feig, E. H. and Lowe, M. R. (2017), Variability in Weight Change Early in Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment: Theoretical and Clinical Implications. Obesity, 25: 1509–1515. doi:10.1002/oby.21925

Drexel University Press Release http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2017/August/Consistent-Pounds-Shed-Leads-to-Weight-Loss/

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