New research in the United States has found that when it comes to losing weight, shedding the pounds steadily and consistently is the best way to keep them off long-term.
Carried out by researchers from Drexel University, the study attempted to find out what makes some people more successful in a weight loss program than others, and how these factors could help improve the success of treatments in the future.
The team recruited 183 overweight or obese participants and placed them on a year-long weight loss program.
During the program, participants were given meal replacements and behavioral goals such as self-monitoring, calorie monitoring and increasing physical activity. Participants also attended weekly group meetings to be weighed and had a final weigh-in two years after the start of the program.
Participants were also asked to report on food-related behaviors and attitudes such as food cravings, emotional eating, binge eating and their confidence in regulating their food intake.
The results showed that participants whose weight fluctuated the most over the first six and 12 weeks of the weight loss program had poorer long-term weight control at 12 and 24 months into the program.
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For example, someone who lost four pounds one week, regained two pounds the next week, and then lost one pound the week after had poorer weight loss outcomes than someone who lost one pound consistently each week for three weeks.
It seems that developing stable, repeatable behaviors related to food intake and weight loss early on in a weight control program is really important for maintaining changes over the long term, said lead author Emily Feig, PhD.
Perhaps surprisingly, the team also found that participants who reported lower emotional eating, less binge eating and less worrying about food had more weight fluctuations and less weight loss overall, suggesting that it is the pattern of initial weight loss rather than relationships with or behaviors toward food that is more important in predicting weight loss success and maintenance long term.
However, the team are keen to further explore why some people show more weight fluctuations than others.
For now, principal investigator Michael Lowe, PhD, says the findings do suggest a potential method for achieving weight loss goals, advising those looking to lose weight to, Settle on a weight loss plan that you can maintain week in and week out, even if that means consistently losing three-fourths of a pound each week.
The results can be found published online in the journal Obesity.