Dieters who lose varying amounts of weight each week may not shed as many excess pounds as people who consistently lose the same amount week in and week out, a new U.S. study from Drexel University in Philadelphia suggests.
Researchers examined data on 183 overweight and obese adults who participated in a weight loss program with meal replacements provided along with goals for calorie monitoring and exercise.
At the start of the study, participants were 51 years old on average and typically obese. The majority were white, and most were women.
Overall, participants’ weekly weight loss tended to vary by about 1.09 pounds during the first six weeks and by 1.33 pounds during the first 12 weeks of the study.
Women tended to be more consistent dieters than men, with less variation from one week to the next at both six weeks and 12 weeks.
Consistent weekly weight losers most successful
After two years, the dieters who had the most consistent weight loss during the first three months of the program lost more excess pounds than the people who initially had more fluctuation.
Higher weight variability during the initial six and 12 weeks of weight loss treatment predicted poorer subsequent, long-term weight control at one year and at two years.
For example, someone who lost four pounds one week, regained two and then lost one the next tended to fare worse than someone who lost one pound consistently each week for three weeks.
Interestingly, individuals who reported lower emotional eating, binge eating and preoccupation with food at the start of the study showed higher weight variability and less weight loss overall.
This suggests that initial weight change, rather than relationships with or behaviors toward food, is much more important in predicting who will succeed in weight loss and maintenance, the authors conclude.
Consistent weight loss may speak to a different approach
While the study can’t explain whether, or how, consistency in weekly weight loss might contribute to success, it’s possible that different approaches to dieting played a role.
Those who lose weight steadily may have had more consistent eating and exercise habits before they joined the program and continued with that pattern as they cut back on calories and exercised more.
Participants with more variable patterns may be trying to lose weight as quickly as possible - so they sometimes have big weight losses, but this leaves them hungry and more likely to fall off track. They regain some weight and then try to lose as much as they can again.
It’s also possible that variation in weight loss from one week to the next slows down overall weight loss, making it harder for people to achieve long-term weight loss goals.
Participants who had more consistent results might also do more thorough job of tracking what they eat and how much they exercise.
Source: Obesity, online August 28, 2017.
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