According to a new study, those people who take the long way when they need to lose weight and slim down receive better long-term results than those who prefer to choose a diet to see rapid results.
Extreme measures don’t seem appropriate for people who want to maintain their figure after stopping a diet. Researchers concluded that rapid methods would work for people who want results in short periods of time, but they would lose all the hard work after stopping.
In the study, published on Monday in the journal Obesity, scientists from Drexel University in Pennsylvania assured that a combination of a tortoise-strategy diet, along with exercises, would be more fructiferous than following a “hare” strategy where the individual has to only drink sugar-free juice for a period, which would produce at the end a “yo-yo” effect.
Researchers still don’t know why people regained the already-lost weight after they finished the quick diet. According to scientists, it is very complicated to understand weight variability. Not all people have the same metabolism, and not all people lose weight in the same manner. Some tend to lose it more consistently and faster than others, no matter if they are extremely strict when they’re following their diets. However, some of them seem to follow appropriate diets and lose weight really slowly.
“My best recommendation for patients, based on this research, is to try to keep their eating pretty similar day to day,” said Emily Feig, lead author of the study, doctoral student at Drexel University and a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. “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.”
Consistency is what people need to lose weight
Researchers studied around 183 people (white women mostly) with obesity and overweight living near Philadelphia. Experts gave them particular training routines and subjected them to individualized diets. Weekly, doctors tracked, measured and analyzed the weight of the obese people after they started the program.
Doctors measured the weight of the people during the first six and twelve weeks after they began the weight-loss program. In the study, researchers found that weight variability in the individuals was associated with less subsequent weight loss at 12 and 24 months, which means that those who lost weight at the beginning of the program would struggle to continue losing it at the end and one year later.
“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,” said Dr. Zhaoping Li, director at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Center for Human Nutrition, who was not involved in the study. “So, if we now know someone is struggling from the beginning, we need to adjust… 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.”
Regaining weight is predictable if people lose it in the first few weeks
Although yo-yo dieters saw earliest results, at the end of the year they were the individuals who lost less weight, compared with the other group who performed a more consistent diet. Men in particular regained weight at the end of the year. According to doctor Feig, people can image if they’re going to regain weight if they lose it rapidly in the first weeks.
A typical subject of the study going through a rapid diet could lose 4 pounds in a week, but it could gain again at the following one. Then, it could lose one pound a week later, continuing with a gaining-and-losing cycle. Besides them, other subjects constantly lost one pound per week, and never gained them again.
“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,” doctor Feig said. “So it seems that both success and consistency in weight loss at the beginning of a program is important for long-term success.”
Feig also considers that there’s still much more research to be done to explain why people who follow rapid diets tend to regain weight again so fast.