Study finds link between consistent weekly weight loss and increased long-term outcomes

A new study conducted at the Drexel University, USA, suggests that when it comes to weight loss, consistency matters rather than speed.

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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.” Emily Feig, PhD, lead author of the study.

In order to understand the underlying reasons why some people have decreased success with weight loss programs and determine the predictors that might enhance future treatment outcomes, the team of psychologists enrolled 183 obese or overweighed participants in a one-year weight loss program with a follow up one or two years after the program started.

The trial involved meal replacements along with behavioral goals like calorie monitoring, self-monitoring, as well as increased physical activity.

The participants’ weights were measured at weekly treatment sessions, with a final weight measurement carried out two years after the onset of the program. The sample group were also asked to report on their food behaviors, such as emotional eating, cravings, binge eating as well as details on their confidence in regulating intake.

The findings indicated that in comparison with those who showed a steady weight loss, the final weight outcomes (after one or two years) were poorer for participants whose weight fluctuations were high during the first few weeks of the program.

Also, it was found that the increased variability in weight across the initial 6 and 12 weeks of the treatment predicted lesser subsequent, long-term control of weight at 12 and 24 months.

Increased weight variability and an overall decrease in weight loss were identified in participants who reported lower binge eating, emotional eating, and less preoccupation with food at the beginning of the study, suggesting the lack of importance of relationships with food in predicting the success in weight loss and maintenance.

According to Michael Lowe, PhD, the principle investigator, the research throws light on a potential method to stick to weight loss goals.

Researchers foresee the use of these findings to identify people who are less likely to achieve justifiable weight loss goals, and those who might profit from a stronger focus on stability. They are also interested in conducting studies to know why some people have more weight variability than others.

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