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July 25, 2010

How Fast Should You Lose the Weight?

Slow and steady doesn't always win the race. A big loss can help offset the inevitable back-sliding.

A new study offers a useful insight into weight loss. It looked at the best way to keep the pounds from coming back after a significant weight loss. The study was a review of 12 earlier studies that followed overweight and obese people as they took part in weight loss programs that included both diet and exercise. Some earlier work had suggested that the more weight people lost, the more they tended to gain back: and many of us have heard that when it comes to weight loss, slower is better.

No matter how much weight people lost during their programs, they all gained back about half of their total weight loss over the next year. This means that the people who lost more weight were actually better off in the end, since everyone gained back the same relative amount.

The team wanted to see if this was true over the short-term (a one year follow-up period), and how participants fared when they were not supervised by weight loss professionals during this period. They compared people who had lost 5-10% of their body weight to those who had lost more than 10%.

The researchers, led by Jeroen Barte at the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, found that no matter how much weight people lost during their programs, they all gained back about half of their total weight loss over the next year. This means that the people who lost more weight were actually better off in the end, since everyone gained back the same relative amount. The authors write that “a greater weight loss during the intervention did result in greater net weight loss after the unsupervised follow-up. From this perspective, 10% or more weight loss should be encouraged and favoured above a lower weight loss.”

Most experts still say that losing one to two pounds per week is the best rule of thumb; and going on a severe weight loss program is certainly not the answer. But clearly more research is needed to determine just how the amount and speed at which we lose weight actually affects how well we keep it off.

The study was published in the March 24, 2010 online edition of Obesity Reviews.

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