You cut calories, increase cardio and sure enough, after the first week of your new diet, you’ve already lost three pounds – awesome!
The second week rolls round and you start off well, but you can’t resist lunch with the girls. One bad day can’t hurt, right? But somehow, you’ve put on two pounds. It’s no big deal though because you’ve still lost weight.
Three weeks down the line and you’re no longer sure how much weight you’ve actually lost because of all the fluctuation and that great start you made seems far away. Sound familiar?
According to new research, the classic hare and the tortoise fable might have more to do with weight loss strategy than we previously thought. In the study published in the journal Obesity, researchers from Drexel University found that people whose weights fluctuated the most at the beginning of a behavioral weight loss program were more likely to have poor long term weight loss outcomes.
“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.
The study consisted of 183 men and women who were overweight or obese. They were enrolled in a year-long weight loss program which focused on meal replacements, increased physical activity as well as behavioral goals such as self-monitoring and calorie monitoring. The participants attended weekly weigh ins and then returned for a final weigh in two years from the start of the study.
The results showed that those who consistently lost a pound a week were more successful than say those who lost three one week, put on one the next and then lost two the week after.
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Relationship with food is also one of the keys to consistent weight loss and maintenance. When strong emotions are associated with food, it can contribute to the effectiveness of a diet. For example, according to research from the University of Canterbury, if you view certain foods as ‘guilty’, you’re more likely to have less control over your eating.
Interestingly, however, of the 183 participants, those who reported lower emotional eating, binge eating and preoccupation with food from the beginning showed less weight loss overall. Therefore, initial weight change, rather than relationships towards food is more important when predicting successful weight loss and maintenance.
Although the researchers are hesitant to equate correlation and causation, in this case, they say the study does show 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,” said principal investigator Michael Lowe, PhD.
Remember, small progress is still progress and consistency is key to achieving your weight loss goals.
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