- Want to lose weight once and for all? Do it consistently, a new study suggests
- Keep your eating habits similar and try to plan ahead, researcher advises
A new study suggests that slowly but steadily shedding pounds each week can be more beneficial for long-term weight loss than seeing your weight drastically drop, only to rise again.
“We don’t know yet what it is about weight variability that’s problematic. It could be reflective of trouble following a diet and exercise plan consistently. But it’s also possible that physiologically, some people tend to lose weight more consistently than others, regardless of how closely they are following a diet,” said Feig, who conducted the study as a doctoral student at Drexel University.
“My best recommendation for patients, based on this research, is to try to keep their eating pretty similar day to day,” she said. “Things like planning ahead, prepping food for the week on Sunday and reducing frequency of eating at restaurants can help with this, since they reduce the chance of making impulsive decisions about what to eat. Building a habit of healthy, consistent eating can help patients reduce weight variability and lose weight more consistently, even if it’s at a slow pace.”
The study involved 183 overweight or obese adults, mostly white women, living near Philadelphia. For one year, they participated in a weight-loss program in which they were counseled on their diet and exercise.
From the start of the program, their weight was tracked, measured and analyzed weekly. The adults also attended assessment meetings at six, 12 and 24 months.
The researchers found that weight variability each week among the adults, measured at the first six and 12 weeks of the program, was positively associated with less subsequent weight loss at 12 and 24 months.
In other words, higher weight variability measured early in the program predicted which patients would continue to struggle with controlling their weight by the end of the program and one year later, according to the study findings.
“This study goes even further in supporting the importance of early weight changes by showing that weekly variability in weight, above and beyond how much weight is lost, predicts weight loss maintenance up to two years later,” she said. “So it seems that both success and consistency in weight loss at the beginning of a program is important for long-term success.”
Dr. Zhaoping Li, director at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Center for Human Nutrition, who was not involved in the new study, said the findings are consistent with what has been seen in scientific literature.
“Whatever we do for those people to lose weight, if they can do it consistently, that means that particular plan not only physiologically fits the patient (and) that particular individual’s body but also is feasible (and) practical for … a day-to-day life,” Li said.
“So, if we now know someone is struggling from the beginning, we need to adjust,” she said. “That can be diet; that can be a lifestyle change. Because we know that if we don’t do an adjustment, they’re going to fail. That’s what this study is really showing.”
Consistency is key for weight loss, study says