Americans, as a country, want to shed a few pounds. But it’s also much harder than we think. Dramatic weight loss shows might offer an exciting narrative we can get behind, but contestants tend to gain all the weight, and more, back. For every success story touted by a diet shake, there’s the reality of minor weight loss. But a new study might have the key, or at least a piece of it. Losing a little bit of weight, every week, may be the better option than trying to shed a dozen pounds in one go.
The study, which ran today in Obesity, had two groups of participants. The study followed a group of Pennsylvanians as they were put on a diet and exercise program and tracked the “weight variability,” that is, how much weight the participants gained or lost in the course of the study. Those who had large swings early on turned out to have a lot more trouble keeping off the weight than those who notched small, but steady losses. Over time, it added up, as the yo-yo-ing group had more trouble with consistent weight loss.
The study’s authors caution that those involved were mostly white women from a specific region, and that this was correlational. If, in fact, slow but steady weight loss adds up to more permanent gains over time, then that’ll have to be proven well beyond just one study. There may also be other factors involved, as we’ve learned that weight loss is far more complicated than just eating less and working out more. Still, we already know that big swings in weight can be bad for your health, and for many of us, it’s a lot easier to find the time to lose half a pound in a week than shed a dozen. So, when you’re figuring out how to lose weight, slow and steady might be a better mantra, even if this study turns out to be a coincidence.